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Old 05-26-2004, 08:42 PM
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Default Lincoln County Meth Summit - Treatment/not incarceration

'No meth, not here' is mantra meth summit delivers to Lincoln County

By Susan T. Wehren Of the News-Times

The sea of faces that met speakers at the Lincoln County Meth Summit represented one of the best turnouts the organizers had seen. And it proved to them that the war against drugs has turned a corner as enforcement officers and treatment providers come together to stamp out drugs in Lincoln County and the state.

More than 200 people crowded the Long House at Salishan Lodge last Sunday to learn what methamphetamine is, how pervasive it is in the state and what can be done to chase it out of the state.

The program covered some of the same information that has been delivered around the county for two years as local agencies work together to raise the awareness of meth and its grip on the county. But new information and speakers kept most of the audience in the building for the full five hours.

The meeting was conducted by Rob Bovett, assistant Lincoln County Counsel, who is known nationwide for his efforts in dealing with the meth problem.

Bovett explained that when he first started talking to the federal government about meth in Oregon, the problem was mostly in the West Coast and Midwest. "We are not the drug capital. It is everywhere," he said, explaining that the Rocky Mountain states are leading the way now with meth labs.

Because of the nationwide proliferation of meth, the federal government is listening to Bovett and others like him when they say federal money is needed to help fight drugs.

Additionally, he says budget cuts have made it necessary for law enforcement and those who work in drug treatment to join forces. Both he and Lt. Craig Durbin, Oregon State Police commander of the drug enforcement section, and Jim Crew of Discovery Counseling, commented that for the first time, the different groups are sitting down at the same table and saying they have to work together.

Durbin said enforcement agencies have admitted that they have not been successful, and they are looking to treatment providers to help find an answer.

"We know a lot more about methamphetamine addiction, and we can help those who want to help themselves," said Bovett of drug addicts.

"Treatment works. We know what to do, but we do not have the money," said Crew. "It takes two years to get off meth. We know the stages of recovery." He said treatment and law enforcement are working together, and he is seeing the cooperation as a way "to get a handle on" meth.

It is cheaper to treat addicts than put them in prison, said Crew.

A combination of residential and outpatient care is needed for treatment, Crew said, adding that meth is the most addictive drug he has seen in his 30 years as a treatment provider. Regular drug screening is what keeps recovering addicts off drugs and on track for recovery.

"We need to know that these people (addicts) are human, and sometimes they need spiritual treatment," he said, explaining that for some that means organized religion, and for others it is meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Sharing the stage with Bovett, Durbin and Crew was Bernice Barnett, Lincoln County District Attorney, who spoke about drug endangered children. Children are victims and witnesses and "cannot protect themselves. We need to remember to get them the care they need," she said. "We are just beginning to look for strategies we can use with them in this county."

Barnett said the county already has agencies working together, and she wants to expand the services to include hospitals, so that there can be a "more comprehensive approach."

Barnett said she is anticipating the county will be the recipient of a second federal "meth grant" that can be used for prevention and treatment. The first federal grant was received a year ago.

Another speaker was Alan Canfield with the Waldport Citizens Patrol. He was there to explain the benefit that program is for the community. "Our number one mission is to be the eyes and ears for law enforcement. We are not confrontational," he said. The program has 23 people who patrol the community.

Also speaking was Lincoln County Sheriff Dennis Dotson, who said his office wants help from communities. Neighborhoods should look after each other and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement. "We need your help. We cannot do it ourselves. We have demonstrated that," Dotson said.

Final speakers were Sheila Flowers, with Partnership Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (PAADA), and Newport attorney Scott Reed. Both stressed the need for local employers to see that their employees work in drug-free work sites, "not in a work-free drug place."

Reed suggested that employers have written drug policies, employee assistance programs, drug testing and employee drug education to see that county businesses are drug free.

Reed said he was impressed with the turnout for this first meth summit. He said he once attended a similar statewide meeting in Idaho, and only 100 people showed up. He pointed out that the mayors of Waldport and Lincoln City, along with county and local state politicians were at the meeting. "This is the heart and soul of a community," Reed said, urging people to leave the meeting with the message, "no meth, not here."
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