SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight has been named the new President and CEO of First Step Sarasota.
The Sheriff will start his new position on Jan. 25 after he retires from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office earlier that month. First Step Sarasota provides programs and services for mental health and addiction. The Sheriff said he hopes with this new role as President and CEO he can continue to serve the community.
“I wanted to work in an organization that would accept me because we’re here to make people better and to help people. Not just to put handcuffs on people. So for me personally this is a great step down from handcuffs, guns, tasers. But, to still be able to serve a community I love and to be working around people who truly want to serve and help people,” Knight said.
Over his 34 years in law enforcement, Sheriff Knight said he has been exposed to the mental health and substance abuse issues in Sarasota County. He said he has learned providing services to help fix the issue is more effective than arresting people. Sheriff knight said in the last five years, The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has backer acted over 6,500 people. One of the first programs he hopes to work on with First Step Sarasota is creating a service families can call instead of 911 when someone with a mental health issue needs assistance. Knight hopes this will help prevent unnecessary deaths.
“That’s easy, ‘Oh they pulled a gun on us and we shot them’. What’s more important is why did that happen and what could we have done to prevent it, even though legally and technically we did everything right procedurally. But what are we failing at as a community is to give those resources to law enforcement or to the families, so that doesn’t happen, so that 911 call doesn’t happen,” Sheriff Knight said.
In 2009 Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office started recovery programs inside the Sarasota County Jail to help those struggling with mental health and substance abuse. There are now 54 programs at the jail to help get people better.