By Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
Florida National Guard
A new detoxification center in St. Augustine - EPIC Recovery Center - recently received $100,000 in items from the Florida National Guard as part of a Guard initiative to help improve Florida communities. The items were purchased with funds the Florida National Guard received for its support of federal counter-narcotics efforts.
"This is the first time we have ever done this,"Florida National Guard Chief of Staff Col. Perry Hagaman said, pointing out that the Florida National Guard is making a visible commitment to Florida communities through the donation.
The $100,000 donation was provided by the Florida National Guard Counterdrug Program from funds received through the Federal Asset Forfeiture Sharing Program. Hagaman explained that the long-term goal is to provide an annual grant from those funds that can be given to any requesting agency.
"We will take a portion of those asset forfeiture funds and use it towards these kinds of community based organizations…and we pay back the community," Hagaman said.
The use of the forfeiture funds was approved by the Department of Justice, and the items for the EPIC Recovery Center were purchased directly by the Florida National Guard's State Quartermaster. Those items included computers, beds, kitchen utensils, and other day-to-day items for residents in substance abuse recovery at the center.
On Wednesday, Jan. 22, Hagaman joined Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw Jr. and hundreds of other community leaders at the grand opening of EPIC Recovery Center on U.S. 1 South in St. Augustine. The 16-bed facility - open 24 hours a day, seven days a week - offers an outpatient clinic. This will be the first detox center in St. Augustine since the 1980s.
"As a community stakeholder we are also concerned about addiction just like everyone else," Titshaw said of the Guard's contribution to the center.
A plaque on a freshly painted wall next to the computer server room at the clinic points out that the Florida National Guard is a "room sponsor" and supporter of the endeavor.
"We are just not in the enforcement role," Hagaman said of the Florida National Guard's Counterdrug initiatives. "We are into prevention and the long-term payback to our communities. We want to make our community and our state a better place."