GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office celebrated and recognized those overcoming their battle with addiction during the S.H.A.R.P. Alumni Recognition Ceremony on Monday.

S.H.A.R.P. stands for Sheriff’s Heroin Addiction Recovery. It’s an initiative for male inmates within the Pitt County Detention Center. W.E.A.R. stands for Women’s Empowerment and Recovery. Both programs aim to reduce substance use while incarcerated through education and working with licensed professionals to not be tempted and go back into the same lifestyle once released.

“I mean, who grows up saying, ‘Oh, when I grow up, I want to be a substance use abuser’,” said Pitt County Sheriff Paula Dance. “That’s not how it happens. There are unfortunate circumstances in which it does happen.”

The initiative was created by Dance in 2019 to meet people where they are.

“Oh, it’s a beautiful thing I tell you. I had a chance to meet some of the greatest people who were just you know, when I got into the S.H.A.R.P. program, I was kind of in a dark place,” said David Sheppard, S.H.A.R.P. alumni.

“And being there, I realized that the support system I really needed that I was looking forward was actually right there.”

Sheppard graduated from the S.H.A.R.P. program. He said he hopes more people take advantage of available resources to get them to a better place.

“It’s very powerful and what we’ve been able to accomplish and looking back at the people who were here, you know, we know it’s very successful, we know what’s working,” said Jason Jackson, S.H.A.R.P. Program Coordinator.

Program officials said they wouldn’t be able to do this without community partners. One of those partners is “Hope is Alive.” They help Sheppard and other men through their men’s recovery home.

“If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I will be who I am right now. Even after re-entry, you know, with the resources, that just added on to it,” said Sheppard. “Me being able to be in that nice house with a nice group of people who I didn’t know, that turned out to be great, and just a whole new start on life without having all the worries.”

Dance said the war on drugs has been a battle for 50 to 60 years. She said something different had to happen. That’s when she decided to focus on those who’ve become victims of drugs and have made them who they are today.

Dance added the program aims to remind them of who they were before using drugs and what they could be.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the men and women who have participated in this program, and who have gone on to live productive lives,” said Dance.

For more information about the two programs, visit S.H.A.R.P. & W.E.A.R. Programs.