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Problems produced by meth widespread

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METH: Doing battle in Bullitt County

By Stephen Thomas

SHEPHERDSVILLE – Meth: A word now synonymous throughout the country as a destroyer of lives, homes and entire communities.

In Bullitt County community members showed support in combating meth issues and problems by learning more about them from local experts.

About 70 Bullitt Countians attended “Meth 101 - A Community Awareness Program” at the Bullitt County Cooperative Extension Service offices, sponsored by Bullitt County Partners in Prevention.

Guest speakers included Bullitt County Drug Task Force director Kenny Hardin, along with Thrissie Dohn and her family. Dohn is a meth survivor now sober for almost two years.

A panel discussion with a question and answer session included Hardin and Dohn, along with PIP chairperson Cynthia Brown, Kentucky State Trooper Steve Pavey, Seven Counties Services senior counselor Diane Hague, Bullitt County Public Schools Safe and Drug Free Schools coordinator Jaime Goldsmith and Bullitt County Extension agent Darold Akridge.

An introductory slideshow offered glimpses of meth victims, primarily young children abused or neglected by meth users or injured in meth-related incidents.

Hardin followed the video by introducing meth, discussing what it consisted of, how it was manufactured and its effect on the human body and mind.

“We certainly want to give you as much information as we can,” said Hardin. “If meth has not touched you or your family in some way, it will.”

Hardin admitted that as recently as 2001 the Drug Task Force was relatively unaware of meth. In the past decade the manufacturing process of the drug streamlined from 12 to two hours.

In Bullitt County a gram of meth costs about $100, Hardin said. Five grams was the same weight as a nickel. Meth manufactured in Bullitt County was on average about 20 to 30 percent pure. Other types, such as Mexico Crystal meth, were as much as 99 percent pure.

A former police officer, Hardin admitted his original thoughts were to build more jails for the many meth users. With widespread increase and related issues, he has changed his focus to education and rehabilitation improvements.

Hardin was appreciative of Bullitt County’s newly established Drug Court, which focused on related cases with more severe penalties. Hague agreed, saying the extra pressure made a significant difference.

New meth warning signs were created for placement on homes and other locations where meth labs were confiscated. Hardin displayed one of the red signs, showing it included a notification to clean the house and how to properly do so.

The Task Force displayed a table of common household items used in meth manufacturing, ranging from aerosol cans and two-liter bottles to over-the-counter medications.

“The ingenuity of these meth users never ceases to amaze me,” Hardin said.

Another major concern with advances in manufacturing was the ‘mobile meth lab,” a small, portable device that could be better hidden and transported in car trunks. Hardin said mobile meth labs caused more dangers and posed a major concern when they are dumped in woods, streams and people’s yards.

“Kids make contact, they breathe the vapors,” he said. “We clean and neutralize as best we can with the State Police.”

Hardin stressed that any potential items resembling meth manufacturing warranted a call to the police. He said no one should touch any item that could contain meth residue.

While there is no guaranteed plan to completely prevent meth use, Hardin discussed techniques including setting strict rules for children pertaining to drugs and alcohol, sending children to schools with anti-drug policies, keeping children active in adult-supervised activities and teaching good fellowship, friendship and social skills.

Goldsmith mentioned that the largest number of first-time drug and alcohol users ranged from 11 to 14 years of age.

“If we can get your kids through middle and high school there’s a 75 percent chance of them not using it as adults,” she said.

Goldsmith said children are more likely to use drugs and alcohol outside of school, during break seasons and in their parents’ homes. She said most begin with common “gateway drugs” such as beer or marijuana.

“Parents do the best they can,” said Goldsmith. “They want their children to have freedom and experience life. But it’s the parents’ primary responsibility. The schools can only do so much.”

Goldsmith reminded that Bullitt County Public Schools offered a variety of educational programs for both parents and students. Brown added that the Kentucky Parent Information Resource Center’s Parent-to-Parent program also featured educational tools and tips for concerned parents.

Akridge warned property owners to walk their lands regularly to watch for tell-tale signs of meth manufacturers.

“Know what’s there, or what’s not,” he said. “People use lands on weekends and when you’re on vacation. You have to know what’s going on in your land more than ever before.”

Akridge also warned owners of storage units and rental home properties to beware of former and current meth-related activity.

“If you see (meth) items in bulk, or in your neighbor’s trash, call the police,” he said.

Hague mentioned that many people are currently receiving treatment for meth use.

“Certain drugs change the brain,” she said. “That’s why it’s so hard to quit.”

Hague said a drug could effect a person’s brain for three to six months before they could return to normalcy.

“It’s a chronic illness, it’s a progress like Alcoholics Anonymous,” she said. “The treatment does work but it doesn’t always work the first time.”

Hague said the state offered quality recovery programs, but low funding couldn’t guarantee that those needing the help could remain in the programs for the necessary time.

Hardin said the best way to combat meth activity is to contact local law enforcement officials with as much detailed information as possible, such as addresses of potential meth homes, potential meth manufacturing items in their trash, and suspicious activity around their residences.

Anyone with meth-related information should contact the Bullitt County Drug Task Force, 543-8242, the Bullitt County Sheriffs tip line, 955-CLUE (2583), or other state and local law enforcement agency.

Akridge added that anyone wanting to report information but are afraid to talk directly with the police could call him, 408-6417, and he would contact the proper authorities.