Strike Force unveils anti-meth plan
County will take comprehensive approach emphasizing prevention and treatment
How bad is methamphetamine use in Butte County? Very bad, say local law enforcement officials. They estimate 80 percent of local crime is related to meth use.
The police alone can’t stop meth use, they say. It’s too widespread; the drug is too easily obtained. Any effort to curb the epidemic must be multipronged, well planned out and involve a lot more than law enforcement.
That was the core message delivered Tuesday morning (Sept. 16) in Oroville, when the Butte County Meth Strike Force—along with Sheriff Perry Reniff, District Attorney Mike Ramsey and local health officials—released a 78-page prevention plan, or “roadmap,” that they say will decrease substance abuse and addiction.
“Substance use affects our entire community, and we as a community can do better,” said Alice Kienzle, the Butte County Department of Public Health’s deputy director of nurses. “We need to get back to the basics—we need kids to really understand how devastating and unique this drug is.”
With a 2007 California Endowment grant, the Meth Strike Force was able to extensively study and better understand the impact meth has on the community. Now, after analyzing the data collected, officials say they plan to take the recommendations and put them into action.
“We actually can turn the corner on meth,” Ramsey said after the presentation at the Sheriff’s Office. “We can get rid of meth and its addiction and consequences in our community. If we can provide treatment and intervention … we can provide prevention.”
The prevention plan proposes strategies for countering meth under broad categories of enforcement, education, treatment, media and strategic partnerships.
It states upfront that methamphetamine use is not solely a law enforcement issue. It is also a mental-health issue because substance abuse compounds and exacerbates mental illness. Also, family violence is often correlated with substance abuse.
Ramsey said he would like to build a detoxification facility in the county jail for meth users and has been working with Reniff to obtain funding for the project. Physician studies demonstrate the most effective opportunity for treatment is 72-hours following a traumatic life event, such as being arrested or overdosing and being sent to an emergency room.
Prisons are overcrowded, Ramsey added. He’d rather push the State Legislature to put more funding into prevention rather than building prisons and jails. Community-based treatment is not only effective at reducing drug abuse, but it also costs far less than incarceration, he said.
Strategies listed in the prevention manual include establishing a countywide protocol for universal screening and referrals, and to streamline those referrals to centralized services prepared to treat drug addiction.
“We need to look at that 72-hour window,” Kienzle continued. “If someone shows up to a physician’s office, we want them to have the resources.”
Essentially, the recommendations target three intervention levels, according to Meth Strike Force Chairwoman Paula Felipe—primary (those who have never been exposed to the substance), secondary (those users who may not be addicted) and tertiary (addicted meth users).
Kienzle said educational programs in the schools will be further implemented to target primary intervention, and need to take place in middle schools because a number of high school students have already been exposed to meth or its aftermath. Media campaigns will also be continued.
During the presentation, Reniff said the prevention model can be used to target all substances, such as the widespread illegal use of prescription medications. Yet, “the big one we want to hit is methamphetamines.”
He continued: “It’s all of us working together to make this happen, and conquer this meth monster. We have a roadmap—let’s make this happen.”
For more information, see www.2stopmeth.org.