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County leaders pledge to battle meth problems

Price City Mayor signs the 'End Meth Now' pledge at the Price City Peace Gardens on August 5. Piccolo spoke at the event in which recovering addicts, community members and government officials came together to pledge to do whatever is necessary to end the blight that meth has put on many communities.

By C.J. MCMANUS
Sun Advocate community editor

The Price City Peace Gardens served as a pledge site Tuesday as community representatives and recovering addicts met to inaugurate the End Meth Now program in Carbon County.

Utah is one of the national leaders per capita in methamphetamine production and use, indicates the EMN Task Force literature.

Meth is the number one drug of choice for all Utahns admitted to public substance abuse treatment programs, increasing from 8.1 percent in 1995 to nearly 28 percent of all admissions in 2006.

Meth abuse and addiction cuts across lines of social status, income level, employment and gender.

The illicit drug places increasing stress on the normal function of life at locations across Utah, including Castle Valley.

Speakers at the Aug. 5 event included two recovering addicts who gave blunt accounts of the damage methamphetamines have caused in their lives.

"It got to where it was very easy to steal from my family," commented one recovering methamphetamine user. "But you know through all the deception my family still sticks by me today."

The Price resident hailed the Carbon County Felony Drug Court as a major contributor to his current sobriety.

"Drug court caused me to have instant sobriety, it was either that or face immediate consequences," said the former methamphetamine user. "The community, the drug court and my family gave me a chance and that's why I am here today."

"You know, at one point, I was living out of the back of my Jeep and couldn't care less but at this point I am running a business and just bought my own home. There is that hope for anyone who is willing to make the choice to live clean," added the former user.

The second speaker was a mother who had lost her children due to meth use.

The woman spoke about the process she went through in order to get her life back on track.

"Meth used to be something that wasn't talked about in my home and for a long time it was hard for me to talk about it," said the mother who is in recovery. "I wanted my kids back and for them to have a good life so I made a choice and know I live that choice. I choose to live clean."

The second speaker was also a drug court member.

Carbon County has felony and family drug court programs.

Women compromise 64 percent of individuals who have used meth in the past year, according to EMN data.

Of the women in treatment in Utah nearly three-quarters of them are mothers and just over seven percent are pregnant at the time of admission.

Meth use can lead to loss of employment, possession, appearance, family and children even going as far as to cause the user's eventual death.

Since women tend to be the primary caregiver in the home, a mother using meth directly impacts the child, states the pledge site at www.endmethnow.org.

Meth abuse frequently leads to child neglect that requires that state to remove the child from the home and place the child in foster care.

In 2005, 1,801 children were placed in foster care because their mothers had substance abuse treatment issues, which cost the state nearly $60 million.

Hidden emotional and mental costs to the children are unknown and continue to grow in the face of this epidemic.

As for cost to the state, 51.4 percent of all treatment admissions for meth have been referred by the courts.

"Last year, more than 40 percent of drug court participants reported meth as their primary drug of choice. Clients with arrest histories entering treatment had an average of three arrests in the six months before treatment began," explains the EMN data. "During treatment, arrests dropped to 0.6 percent per client."

Because so many social services are relied upon to deal with the problem, taxpayers are shouldering a heavy burden in Utah.

With all law enforcement, corrections, court system, housing and financial aid the price for meth abuse continues to grow.

For instance, $12 million a year of uncompensated emergency room costs and more than $33 million of uncompensated patient admission costs are significantly due to meth use.

When Price Mayor Joe Piccolo spoke at the event on Tuesday, he exuded hope for decreased in use in Carbon County.

"We need to stop youthful people in the community that are ready to head down the wrong path," said Piccolo. "It is our responsibility as a community, we have the funds and the means needed to make a real change for the better."

Following the mayor's comments, attendees at the gathering were invited to sign a pledge canvas.

"The pledge is about someone turning a commitment over to really put their support behind this program," pointed out Piccolo as Carbon County residents started signing the canvas.

A comment by Liz Ferguson of Four Corners mental health concluded the event.

"Meth is something that affects us all socially, economically and, at times, in our families and hearts. Let's all pledge today to fight this epidemic," urged Ferguson.




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