Pubdate: Tue, 08 May 2007
Source: Tucson Citizen (AZ)
Copyright: 2007 Tucson Citizen
Author: Eric Sagara
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


'It Is Our Responsibility To Fix It. Let's Get It Done'

Napolitano Calls For New Emphasis In Fight Vs. Meth

Gov. Janet Napolitano is calling for a crackdown on the cross-border 
methamphetamine traffic and an expansion of addiction treatment to 
combat the illegal drug's growing threat to public health and safety.

"We run the risk of losing entire generations of Arizonans to meth if 
we don't have this as a No. 1 public priority," Napolitano said. 
"This is our No. 1 drug problem. It is a public health problem. It is 
a crime problem. It is a public safety problem. It is our problem, 
and if it's our problem, then it is our responsibility to fix it. 
Let's get it done."

At a news conference Monday, the governor presented the 
recommendations of the Arizona Methamphetamine Task Force, which she 
appointed in August. The 32-member task force was chaired by Pima 
County Attorney Barbara LaWall.

Last fiscal year, 90 percent of the methamphetamine seized by local, 
state and federal agencies was found at ports along Arizona's border 
with Mexico.

Michael Johnson, a 36-year-old recovering meth addict here, said 
low-grade meth from Mexico is a lot easier to find now that the sale 
of pseudoephedrine, a chemical used to make meth, has been restricted here.

"It's just like water now," said Johnson, who has been in treatment 
at Compass Health Care since March.

Authorities are making some headway, in part because of the 
restrictions on pseudoephedrine sales. According to the Drug 
Enforcement Administration, seizures statewide have dropped from 
2,119 pounds in fiscal 2004 to 970 pounds in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

The task force recommended increased coordination among state, local 
and federal law enforcement agencies to crack down on the smuggling 
of the dangerous drug.

The treatment program operated here by Compass Health Care and La 
Frontera Center has been designated by the Arizona Department of 
Health Services as a Best Practices Center for Excellence and 
recognized by the White House drug policy office as "unique in the country."

Johnson's mother bonded him out of jail so he could go into 
treatment. He said he is facing a 15-year sentence for a 
methamphetamine possession conviction, and he's worried that he won't 
get treatment he needs in prison.

Napolitano's task force called for more rural and tribal treatment 
programs and for the state Legislature to fund an expansion of 
Arizona's treatment network.

"Meth is one of the most expensive substances to treat because it 
takes longer, and current treatment demands exceed the state's 
capacity to deliver that treatment," LaWall said.

Danny Soatikee, a member of the Gila River Indian Community, is 
another recovering addict seeking treatment at Compass's New 
Directions treatment facility, near Dodge Boulevard and Glenn Street. 
The 42-year-old sold his house in Casa Grande and drove to Tucson to 
enroll in a treatment program. The tribe is building a facility, but 
Soatikee said the options are limited until then.

"My whole life was centered on getting high," he said. "I remember 
hitting the pipe, tears coming out of my eyes, telling myself that 
this is not good and not being able to stop."

Cynthia Klein, director of community relations for Compass, said 
funding will be one of the biggest challenges that Napolitano's plan will face.

"If we can pay for it, if there was unlimited funding, we could 
really make great strides in treating all sorts of addictions," she 
said. "We need a lot of funding. So many people don't have the 
resources to pay for the treatment."

Meth-related admissions to Arizona hospitals tripled from 2000 to 
2005, according to the task force.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services 
Administration, methamphetamine was responsible for 10.5 percent of 
the admissions to treatment facilities statewide in 2005, compared to 
alcohol at 10 percent.

"Methamphetamine has destroyed my whole life, and the sick part is 
that I still like it," Soatikee said. "I don't trust myself, my own 
thinking, and that's a good thing because I need to surround myself 
with recovery.

"I have a healthy fear now of losing what I have. I was pretty sick, 
and I don't want to go back to that. I have choices in my life now."
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman