Public Can Help Fight Meth, Alcohol Abuse

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Southwest Behavioral Health/Rim Guidance Center is beginning a new campaign to assist the community in addressing the problems of methamphetamine abuse and underage drinking.

Both are major problems in Payson and neighboring communities. The Payson Police Department and the Gila County Sheriff's Office have seen an increase in arrests for consumption of alcohol by minors and for crimes that are indicators of increasing substance abuse problems.

The people using meth are everyone's problem. According to information from The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, meth hurts not just the individuals using it, but their families, neighborhoods and entire communities. A meth lab can operate unnoticed in any neighborhood for years, causing serious health hazards to everyone around. A meth lab causes environmental harm and puts children at risk. Law enforcement officials say meth users often steal from their families, their employers and commit burglaries, selling the stolen goods for money to feed their habit. It is expected crime in the community will increase due to the need for users to find cash to purchase their meth.

The children of meth users often are placed in foster care because their parents can no longer care for them. Meth users have a higher incidence of hospital admittance due to the health problems that result from abuse of the drug, specifically they have a higher incidence of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, said Darlene Duncan of Rim Guidance.

Tax dollars support foster care and fund health care for indigents through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.

The problem of underage alcohol consumption is just as significant as meth abuse. Payson High School students participating in a survey indicated they believe between 75 and 95 percent of the student body uses alcohol.

A national study showed that nearly 29 percent of people, 12 to 20 reported alcohol use in 2004; almost 20 percent were binge drinkers (consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion); and more than 6 percent were heavy drinkers, binging five or more times a month.

What can you do?

Become a member of the Community Prevention Council being formed by Rim Guidance. The council will create a data assessment committee to research and track indicators to inform the community about the substance abuse trends in Northern Gila County. Collecting data at regular intervals will help assess the effectiveness of prevention and intervention programs in the schools and community. The council will also hold a number of town hall meetings to discuss the issues with the community.

Anyone interested in helping the council is invited to attend a meeting at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26 at the Payson Public Library conference room. For additional information, call Duncan at (928) 468-8055, ext. 3804.

"It is absolutely vital that we attack these threats to our community well-being," Duncan said.

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