Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Group pushes for methamphetamine bill to combat use

EVERETT -- Ashley Kerwin knows firsthand how powerful the grip of methamphetamines can be.

She was in high school when she first tried meth, and was addicted for nearly a year before her parents sent her to an inpatient treatment center in Mexico, where she was finally able to quit.

Now 19 and sober for several years, Kerwin speaks regularly about battling her addiction, the toll it took on her family and the growing problem of meth use in the region.

Yesterday, she and her parents joined law enforcement officials, politicians and community members to push for passage of a bill that would expand federal funding for programs that combat meth addiction. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and dubbed the "Arrest Methamphetamine Act," would provide federal grant money to states that enact a law limiting the sales of pseudoephedrine and other easily accessible "precursor products" often used to manufacture methamphetamine.

The grant money -- $100 million in 2006 and 2007 and $200 million a year through 2010 -- would be used primarily for prevention and community-based education, interventions, hiring and training specialized law-enforcement officers and seizures and cleanups of meth labs.

Meth use is a growing problem, especially in places such as Snohomish County, where law enforcement officials report seeing a dramatic increase in use of the drug in the past decade.

Meth addiction is often tied to other crimes, including domestic violence, assault, shoplifting and identity theft, said Jerry Burke, the deputy chief of investigations for the Everett Police Department. Often "the generating factor is somebody's need to feed their habit," he said.

As much as 35 percent of the criminal cases in Snohomish County courts are methamphetamine-related, according to county statistics.

"The cost is horrendous," said Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart. "I don't think we can even put a dollar sign on it."

The extra federal money is necessary, Bart said, because counties around the state are struggling to deal with the growing meth problem at a time when they have been seeing "consistent and continual reductions" in the amount of money devoted to fighting meth production and helping addicts get treatment.

This legilsation (S. 430) would urge the President to negotiate a bilateral agreement with the Canadian government to curb the Northern Border meth precursor trafficking problem. In addition, Cantwell's legislation authorizes $100 million in anti-meth funding for the current federal fiscal year, and establishes a stable federal funding source to combat meth abuse through 2010.

Cantwell's legislation also requires the U.S. Attorney General to establish a national clearinghouse of information, so that when one state or local jurisdiction finds an approach to the meth problem that works, the solution is shared nationwide. The national clearinghouse will help establish “best practices” and provide technical assistance for these state and local agencies.

Under this legislation, funds would be divided under a new formula grant for states with programs to combat meth. In order to be eligible to receive a grant, states must have a comprehensive, long-term plan to address meth use, manufacture and sale, and have enacted or be in the process of enacting a law to limit the sales of precursor products (the commercially available products used to make meth, such as pseudoephedrine). Under Cantwell's bill, states would have flexibility and discretion to decide how to use grant funds. States receiving a grant would be allowed to fund a broad range of activities, including: seizing clandestine labs and cleaning up the hazardous materials they often contain; hiring officers and conducting specialized training for law enforcement; supporting community policing; and promoting awareness, prevention and community based education, among other strategies.

This is a start!

1 comment:

  1. Meth use is a growing problem, especially in places such as Snohomish County, where law enforcement officials report seeing a dramatic increase in use of the drug in the past decade.

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