Payson Police Lt. Don Engler ranks the stories of "meth kids" those born with methamphetamine in their systems, and those raised by meth-addicted parents as the most tragic he has ever witnessed.
"No question about it," Engler said. "Kids start seeing this kind of behavior at a real young age and, unfortunately, they very often go on to get caught up in the drug world themselves. Some of the most severe addicts that we see are the ones who were exposed to it at a young age."
If the meth-kids subject seems far removed from your own home town, Von Harris of Child Protective Services said you need to take a harder look around.
"Payson, per capita, is the second-largest meth area in the state of Arizona, after Tucson," Harris said. "That's why we keep telling everybody. 'This is your back yard, babe.'"
In hopes of getting that and other meth-related messages across to as many Rim country residents as possible, CPS with help from the Arizona Attorney General's office has mounted its 8th Annual Child Abuse Prevention Forum.
This free, five-hour public seminar, which includes a free dinner, will be held next Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Tonto Apache Recreation Hall just east of the Mazatzal Casino. The program will cover methamphetamine, its production, volatility and effects on children, adults and the environment.
Det. Jim Smith of the Phoenix Police Department will discuss how meth is manufactured, how to recognize it, its inherent dangers, and the signs and symptoms of meth use.
Det. Tim Ahumada, from the Family Investigation Bureau of the Phoenix Fire Department, will share measures and techniques investigators use when dealing with cases where children are found in meth-lab environments.
JoAnn Garcia, the Assistant Attorney General, Drug Enforcement & Violent Crimes Section, will address legal issues, parallel proceedings and environmental concerns.
She will also discuss the role Child Protective Services plays on the emergency response team when children are found in meth-lab environments, and in subsequent follow-ups with children and families.
Attendees will also be able to direct their questions at a panel of experts from Child Protective Services, learn how advocacy can help a family in trouble, and hear a survivor's success story.
The 8th Annual Child Abuse Forum is designed for parents, principals and other school personnel, medical providers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, attorneys, case managers, clergy and, as Harris said, "anyone who is concerned about what's going on in their own back yard."
To register, call CPS at 474-6019, ext. 208.