LEBANON, Kentucky (WHAS11) -- It's got that small-town feel and it's where American pride is proudly on display. But, that Mayberry persona is masking a deadly and dangerous reality.
"Once I start doing heroin, it's like it overtakes my mind and nothing else is really a worry," said Kenneth Eldridge.
Eldridge was an inmate at the Marion County jail when WHAS11 did this interview. He received a 19-year sentence for trafficking heroin. Eldridge says he hit rock bottom four years ago when he was declared dead after passing out. Paramedics revived him. It was a sobering scenario that forced him to get clean.
"I'd like people to know there is a life on the other side; that you can clear your mind long enough to find something different," Eldridge said.
Life on the other side is what jailer Barry Brady wants for all inmates in his facility. "There are individuals overdosing and dying in rural Kentucky," Brady told WHAS11.
Getting inmates clean comes with a cost. Since 2002, Brady has overseen the 297-bed county jail.
He says the heroin epidemic is increasing the number of prisoners who need treatment. The jail went from housing more than 14,000 inmates for all of 2015 to more than 17,000 for all of 2016.
"There's someone on some type of mental health watch or detox watch constantly," he said.
The jail spent nearly $300,000 for medical services during the 2010-2011 fiscal year. That number topped almost half a million dollars for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Ari Jones also went through the jail's drug treatment program. He's serving a combined 31 years on four different convictions. Jones says he spiraled out of control 17 years ago when he was involved in a crash that killed his wife. She was driving. They both were under the influence of alcohol.
"I didn't know how to deal with it. So, I just really turned to drugs," Jones said.
Jones is now taking part in the jail's culinary program. He is hoping to own his own restaurant. Brady says jails can longer operate solely as a place of punishment. He is advocating for a more clinical approach to treating addicts and believes Marion County is a model for the state to follow. His thought is that investing more in resources will prevent inmates from returning. "I feel like there is work to be done," he said.
That work starts by giving people like Eldridge a second chance. He was granted parole in late April.
Brady says Eldridge is an example of how lives can change if the inmate puts in the effort to choose to live, which Eldridge admits wasn't always the choice he'd make.
"When you are in the process of using heroin, you really don't think about anything else and you think that that's it. Your life runs from high to high," he said.