Pubdate: Fri, 10 Sep 2004
Source: Oak Ridger (TN)
Copyright: 2004 The Oak Ridger
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Youth)


CHATTANOOGA (AP) - Methamphetamine's destruction of families in
Tennessee is increasing, with a report Thursday showing the state will
take about 750 children from parents involved with the drug this year.
The first such report by the Department of Children's Services, based
on an analysis of April-June investigations by case workers, projects
about 150 more meth-related child removals this year than in 2003.

"It looks like a fairly substantial increase over last year," said
Paul Montebello, executive director of performance at the DCS. "In
general, we are looking at 700 to 750 children who will come into
custody, where meth is the reason or part of the reason."

Montebello said he hoped to have a complete report available for
release by Friday.

Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant cooked from a recipe that
includes toxic household and workplace products and cold tablets that
contain ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. The clandestine labs, sometimes
set up in kitchens, are potentially explosive and produce sickening

The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration has reported 1,253 meth
labs cleaned up in Tennessee in 2003, the most in any state for the
third straight year. It estimates the state is home to three-quarters
of the meth labs in the Southeast.

A task force appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen has recommended limiting
the availability of products used to make the drug, tougher penalties
and expanded treatment for addicts. Bredesen is expected to push the
measures in the General Assembly next year.

Montebello described the data as the start of a continuing, up-to-date
database. The Associated Press requested a continuing count and a
state lawmaker demanded an updated report on meth-related child
removals after the department stopped counting in August 2003. He said
the count for 2004 was based on an evaluation of cases from April
through June and cases last year.

Montebello said the largest number of meth-related child removal
petitions in the April-June tally was 78 in the southeast Tennessee
region that includes Polk, Bradley, Marion, Grundy, Franklin, Bledsoe,
Rhea, Meigs, McMinn and Sequatchie counties.

That was followed by 35 in the department's Upper Cumberland region,
which includes Macon, Smith, Cannon, Warren, Van Buren, White, Putnam,
Cumberland, Fentress, Overton, Jackson, Clay, Pickett and DeKalb counties.

The children are placed in the custody of foster parents or with

Montebello said the Upper Cumberland region had 117 investigations in
the April-June tally, followed by 94 in Southeast Tennessee.

The East Tennessee region - Hamblin, Scott, Morgan, Roane, Loudon,
Monroe, Blount, Sevier, Jefferson, Grainger, Claiborne, Union,
Campbell and Anderson counties - had 27 investigations.

He said the report shows 110 meth-related investigations statewide by
child protection workers each month, or about 1,300 for this year. He
did not release a total count of meth-related investigations for 2003.

A Children's Services count released in August 2003 showed more than
600 meth-exposed children taken from parents in Tennessee during the
previous 18 months.

Montebello said the larger total projected for 2004 "could be a result
of increased awareness on the part of the community, people more
likely to report, or simply we are just getting more meth houses in
the state."

Montebello said the database will provide a true comparison in

"It will be a year from now. -- We have got a good, accurate base
line," he said.

Montebello said "at this point we focused on meth" in building the
database, but he is working to have other illegal drugs included by
Oct. 1.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Laymon of Chattanooga, who prosecutes
meth cases, said child protection case workers have a tough job
deciding which cases involve children exposed to operating meth labs
and children exposed to a few components.

"I think there is a lot of gray area there, where there could easily
be a mix up in how things are supposed to be reported," Laymon said. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake