November, 22 2017

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The other face of meth

The good news is that methamphetamine does not appear to be the drug of choice for Hood River teenagers � the bad news is that it seems to be a growing problem among young adults.

According to Hood River County parole and probation officers, three percent of the 98 drug use cases processed for juveniles during 2004 involved meth. But that number rose to 16 percent in 564 cases related to adults. And statistics compiled by state family service agencies reflect that meth was involved in 62 percent of the local caseload involving neglected and abused children. Seventy four percent of the 312 drug cases processed by the Mid-Columbia Interagency Narcotics Taskforce during 2004 involved meth.

After hearing this information, art students at Hood River Valley High School decided to personalize the human element of drug use. They have spent this week painting portraits that represent children at all stages of development who are victims of drug abuse. Their pictures are matched to actual cases in Hood River County.

�I think this will put a face on it for those people who don�t have someone in the family who�s been impacted by drug and alcohol abuse,� said Joella Dethman, director of Hood River County Commission on Children and Families (HRCCF).

The real-life depictions created by the TEEN artists will be hung in the Hood River Middle School for viewing by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden and other federal and state officials.

Walden, R-Ore., will host a drug summit in the school auditorium from 3 to 4 p.m. next Friday. He wants to focus on the state�s problem with meth and other illicit drugs � especially since Oregon ranks fourth-worst in the United States for drug use among 18- to 25-year-olds.

�From the Cascades east to Idaho, and from the Columbia River south to California and Nevada, this drug (meth) has plagued both urban and rural communities throughout the Second Congressional District,� he said.

�The close proximity of the Columbia Gorge to the Portland metro area and to Interstate 84 makes us far too easy a target for continued exposure to the scourge of methamphetamine. As parents of a son in a local public school, as small business owners in the region, and as active community members in both Hood River and The Dalles, my wife and I are extremely concerned about the spread of the meth epidemic in Hood River and Wasco counties,� Dethman said the recent death of a Hood River woman from drug use underscores the need for the upcoming discussion.

Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler is conducting an investigation into the apparent Feb. 1 overdose of Tracy Ann Crider, 46, of Hood River.
According to reports, she died while under the influence of heroin while returning home from Portland in a vehicle driven by a male friend.

�We really want to encourage everyone to come and learn what�s happening in our community,� said Dethman, who plans to pass out prevention literature to interested parents and individuals.

Walden has invited state and local government leaders from both counties to attend the forum, as well as law enforcement officials and experts in child and family welfare.

Dethman and Maija Yasui, prevention specialist, have spent the last month compiling local statistics to present to Walden.

They have been given information by numerous agencies with connections to TROUBLED youth and families.
�Such broad interest is a testament to the seriousness of the battle we face. It is not just users who pay a high price; we all do.

Along with the increases in meth usage have come dramatic increases in theft, violence, children living in drug houses, and the need for substantial tax dollars to fund the enhanced law enforcement required to fight this problem in our communities.

Quite simply put � meth is a highly addictive, destructive drug that we must combat at every level,� Walden said.
He has helped secure $250,000 in federal funds for Oregon Partnership to use in the fight against meth. Those dollars will be used for prevention PROGRAMS and enforcement action.

While discussion at the summit will largely center on controlling meth addiction, focus will also be given to another large problem in Hood River County.
Dethman and Yasui want to address the use of alcohol and marijuana among local TEENAGERS.

They have put together a packet for the visiting elected officials that outlines the problem and suggests remedies that could be addressed through legislation.
�This is truly a community effort. Everyone has just stepped up to the plate, which is how we can change the acceptance of drug use within our community,� said Yasui.

The HRCCF statistics reflect that 40.7 percent of high school freshman have used alcohol and 21 percent of them have admitted to five or more drinks in one setting. That is almost twice the percentage of students in Oregon that answered the same questions in an annual survey.

Of the 52 percent of all Hood River County seniors who used alcohol, 30 percent drank five or more drinks at one time. That compares with a 45 percent state ratio of students who drank, with an almost equal rate of binge drinking.

Yasui said early use of alcohol and tobacco use is directly linked in research to later substance abuse addiction. For example, she said children who imbibe alcoholic beverages are 12 times more likely to use illicit drugs.

And youth who abuse substances at an early age have higher rates of anxiety and depression in their 20s.

�There�s just no question about the data that says people who start out using just alcohol and marijuana end up moving on to other drugs,� said Dethman.

Wampler plans to ask the legislators for more resources to provide immediate help for drug users seeking TREATMENT.
He also believes the medical marijuana industry should be regulated more closely to prevent growers from selling the drug to youth.

Child welfare workers

would like to see a longer wait time before minors are reunited with parents who have been treated for addictions.

They want to ensure that the problems in the family have truly been overcome before vulnerable children are placed back in the home.

�We want them (legislators) to listen to the local experts and get feedback as to how they might be able to help us,� Yasui said.

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