Pubdate: Sat, 05 Aug 2006
Source: Alamogordo Daily News (NM)
Copyright: 2006 Alamogordo News
Author: Christa Haynes, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Women)
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Workshop Outlines Problems In Combatting Drug Scourge

Rep. Steve Pearce was in Alamogordo Wednesday on the fifth stop in an 
awareness tour through New Mexico to aid communities in dealing with 
methamphetamine. Pearce opened the meeting with somber remarks about 
the reality of meth use, stating that where other drugs have a cure 
rate of about 40 percent, abusers of meth only have a 10 percent 
chance of beating the addiction.

Of that 10 percent, more than 70 percent of "recovered" abusers will 
relapse. Since his election to office in 2002, Pearce said he has 
recognized the importance of several of New Mexico's issues. One in 
particular stands out.

"As we look at the range of social issues that affect us, the one 
that continues to stand out is the use of methamphetamines," he said.

Pearce closed his remarks with a sobering account of how formidable 
an addiction to meth can be he recently learned that prisoners will 
trade their commissary privileges for the urine of new inmates that 
are addicted to meth.

"The body only absorbs about 20 percent of the chemicals," Pearce 
noted. "Now I imagine my daughter or granddaughter going to those 
lengths to feed this addiction A% if I can impart one message today 
don't think that Washington can cure this problem. We'll only send 
money and pass laws. You have the responsibility to take back your community."

Pearce turned the meeting over to Alamogordo Mayor Don Carroll, who 
advised attendees the city is not only aware of the problem, but the 
community is willing to step up and do something about it. The recent 
Meth Awareness Week, held from April 17 through 21 this year, was 
viewed as a success, he said. Preparations for a Meth Awareness Month 
are in the works.

Lee Ann Loney spoke about the Methamphetamine Coalition, a group 
formed last year when Otero County Youth Empowerment Association was 
approached by El Paso del Norte Health Foundation and the Center for 
Border Health Research to participate in a program called Community 
Based Participatory Research.

"CBPR empowers communities through knowledge, and transforms that 
knowledge into action," she said. The CBPR is in the process of 
analyzing data from surveys of residents understanding of 
methamphetamine issues.

The organization also studies information from health service 
providers. Once the data has been organized and analyzed, the 
information can be used for proposals, grants and funding of new 
programs, Loney said.

Santiago Rodriguez, executive director of the Council on Alcohol, and 
Rick Gilsdorf, representing the juvenile Drug Court, spoke about the 
shifting tone of public programs to address meth problems. Both 
speakers agreed with Rep. Pearce and reiterated that one of the most 
troublesome issues when addressing recovery is that it is not 
effective as an outpatient program.

Most abusers of meth need treatment on a long-term basis, and 
residential treatment is expensive. Because of this, it is imperative 
to prevent and educate the community on the dangers of 
methamphetamine abuse, they said.

For young abusers in Otero County, a juvenile court that holds 
offenders accountable and enforces treatment adds a facet of 
long-term treatment, but it is not available yet for adult offenders.

"The good news is that it appears (juvenile) drug court has been 
successful," Gilsdorf said. "But the problem is that there are zero 
dollars to start an adult drug court."

Lisa Patch represented the Methamphetamine Coalition's work in 
Alamogordo public schools. Last year, the coalition took its first 
steps toward prevention by providing a presentation at the high 
school and middle schools. To ensure that they had the attention of 
the youngsters, Patch handed out quizzes afterward and students who 
answered questions correctly were entered into a drawing for an iPod.

The prevention effort has moved into elementary schools, where the 
coalition teaches children what to look for in homes that may house a 
meth lab, as well as teaching them about self-esteem.

Reminder bracelets have been provided to the students, a fad that 
just might serve to Advertisementboost their self-esteem and keep 
them away from meth.

Sylvia King, a local substance abuse counselor, provided horrific 
accounts of the destruction meth leaves in its wake. King works with 
women at the James House, a facility that rehabilitates women. James 
House is a 32-bed facility that demands its clients sever all ties 
with their former world. The women are required to hold jobs, do 
housework and work together, but above all they must be willing to change.

"We teach them to trust themselves, and to trust other people to help 
them," King said. "These are not bad people, they just in many cases 
have low self-esteem. They wanted to be a "super' person a supermom, 
a superwoman A% we educate them about what (meth) does to them, 
physically, emotionally and spiritually."

Jim Kerlin, of the Counseling Center, reinforced King's remarks by 
speaking about the changing face of counseling.

"We must deal with the whole person," Kerlin said. "Substance abuse 
and mental abuse."

Representatives from law enforcement provided more information on the 
control of the manufacturing and distribution of meth.

"It's not a new problem, but it does seem more prevalent and more 
violent (than cocaine)," Department of Public Safety Director Sam 
Trujillo said.

Trujillo is working with his senior officers on enforcement issues. 
DPS will continue to use the D.A.R.E. program for prevention, 
providing all fifth graders with a substance abuse education course, 
he said. Laws passed in 2005 assist in enforcement by limiting the 
amount of certain chemicals consumers can purchase, as well as 
requiring them to register before purchasing.

Otero County Sheriff John Blansett maintained that his greatest 
concern is "public apathy." He stressed that the public needs to be 
aware of the meth problem and shared his opinion that stronger border 
control is required to solve the issue. He invited Benny House, the 
sheriff's department's narcotics director, to share statistics 
relating to sources of methamphetamine distribution. According to 
House, 151 meth labs were seized in New Mexico in 2003. In 2005, 23 
labs were busted, but possession arrests were up 300 percent.

House said meth is coming out of Mexico and making its way to 
Phoenix, where it spreads through the Southwest at an alarming pace.

Larry Wisecup, of the Children, Youth and Families Division, stressed 
the violence that meth abusers display, relating horrific stories of 
children who have been neglected and abused by parents high on meth. 
Because the recovery time for a meth addict is prolonged and crucial, 
better programs that account for the children of the abusers are a 
key component to fighting the spread of meth, he said.

All speakers agreed that a community-wide effort is the only way to 
combat the meth problem.

A similar meeting in Mescalero Wednesday found small communities in 
particular struggle more in dealing with the problem, due to limited resources.

"The number of cases relating to methamphetamine is beginning to 
overwhelm us," Superintendent Billy Walker of the Bureau of Indian 
Affairs said in a news release following the meeting on the reservation.

Other participants in the Mescalero workshop spoke of residents who 
live in fear of reprisals from meth dealers, and are therefore 
hesitant to take action.

Anyone interested in joining the city's efforts can attend the next 
Methamphetamine Coalition meeting, Aug. 8 at 12 p.m. at the 
Counseling Center, 1900 E Tenth St., 437-7404. Meetings are held the 
second Tuesday of every month.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman