Pubdate: Sat, 14 Jan 2006
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Copyright: 2006 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Author: Kevin McDermott, Post-Dispatch Springfield Bureau
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


SPRINGFIELD, ILL. - Gov. Rod Blagojevich will announce this week a 
plan to establish the state's first "meth unit" in an East St. Louis 
corrections facility, a testament to methamphetamine's status as 
Southern Illinois' biggest drug problem.

Blagojevich will use his State of the State speech on Wednesday to 
announce his plan to establish the new 200-bed meth unit at the 
Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center in East St. Louis, the 
administration said.

The 667-bed minimum-security facility was opened in 1995 as a 
drug-treatment prison, but the specific focus on methamphetamine is 
new. The administration plans to bring in additional counselors who 
specialize in meth addiction.

"People who have meth problems have very special issues because of 
the characteristics of the drug," said Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby 
Ottenhoff. "There will be people brought in to focus more on 
counseling ... and getting people ready for parole."

Drug users in general have a higher rate of relapse than other kinds 
of inmates, and methamphetamine users have even more specialized 
needs, officials say. The drug, derived from stimulants found in 
common cold medicines, can cause paranoia, hallucinations and violent 
behavior and hampers cognitive functions.

The new unit at the East St. Louis facility will be the first of two 
planned in Illinois. The administration plans to open a second meth 
unit next year at the Sheridan Correctional Center in northern Illinois.

The East St. Louis pilot program will cost about $6.6 million, with 
most of that funding provided by a federal grant. Ultimately, the 
programs at both facilities will cost the state about $18 million a year.

The East St. Louis program will use 200 of the current beds and space 
at the facility, said Deanne Benos, assistant director for the 
Illinois Department of Corrections. The major difference will be that 
inmates in the meth program will get counseling with lower 
inmate-to-counselor ratios, with special emphasis on continuing 
tracking and treatment after their release.

Benos said the program would start in East St. Louis because 
officials wanted to stress a regionally based approach to the 
methamphetamine issue - with inmates drawn from, and returned to, 
Southern Illinois communities.

"In central and Southern Illinois, meth is really at crisis 
proportions," she said.

Blagojevich will give his speech at noon in the Illinois House.
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