The Gila County Meth Coalition staged a public forum in Payson on the evening of Feb. 7. Earlier that day, morning and afternoon sessions were conducted at Payson High School for students. Members of law enforcement, various community services and the Meth Coalition were present to answer questions.
In the evening, four members of the Gila County Narcotics Task Force, six members of the coalition and a panel of eight were present to address the audience at the Payson High School Auditorium. Members of the panel included: DPS Sgt. Terry Lincoln, GCNTF; Jason Hazlo, Payson Police Dept.; Dean Pederson, Southwest Behavioral Health; Michael Dynes, County Attorney's Juvenile Prosecutor; Patty Sneed, Therapist and recovering addict at Southwest Behavioral Health; John Hogeboom, Community Bridges; Sgt. Jay Henderson, Tonto Apache Police, and Sam Cook, K-9 Tonto Apache Police.
Task Force Agent Dennis Buller narrated a slide and video presentation highlighting the dangers of meth as well as other drugs and alcohol. Agent Buller stressed that with the crackdown of Mexican officials on the drug cartels, more labs are again beginning to show up locally. The task force recently shut one down in the Globe area. He also stated that marijuana used to be considered the gateway drug; research has shown that alcohol is where abuse starts.
A meth high can last anywhere from 2 to 16 hours, but coming down can produce serious consequences. Meth users can get addicted after just one use of the drug, which gives a very strong and intense, sustained high. Abusers keep trying to reach the ultimate high time after time. But it just doesn't happen again, they never reach the same strength or length. Unfortunately, there is a medical trend for serious abusers to develop severe forms of diabetes as well as other organ damage.
Meth labs are very portable and can be found anywhere ... in an RV, a motel room, the backseat of a vehicle, a residence or out in the forest/wilderness. All the materials needed could fit in a cooler. To spot a meth lab, be on the lookout for: unusual odors that wouldn't normally be associated with a residential area, large amounts of empty cold medicine packets lying around, blacked out or darkened windows (meth users can't tolerate light), batteries that have been taken apart, duct tape, coffee filters and lots of traffic making short duration stops. These people are not there for an afternoon visit. They want to get in, make the buy and get out quickly.
The new item on the street is flavored meth. It comes in strawberry, chocolate, grape and watermelon and is obviously used to attract a younger clientele. While the task force hasn't seen it yet, Payson PD has made a juvenile female arrest on it. When asked about the color, she stated it has a nicer appearance and sweeter taste. Meth is also being seen in pill form. These pills, usually imprinted with a cartoon character or a smiley face, may contain other chemicals, such as ecstasy or PCP and mixed with the meth.
Meth has become a ‘community problem' with nearly everyone being touched by the drug in one way or another.
Once the presentation was completed the panel fielded questions from the audience. Many of those present are recovering addicts who gave impassioned testimonials on their addiction and life after recovery. Several expressed an interest in getting involved to help current addicts find needed assistance and let them know help is available. It is also important for the recovery process to give back to the community once someone has started to recover.
It was an enlightening evening for everyone who was there. Unfortunately, the Payson Town Council meeting was going on at the same time and, sadly, not a lot of Payson's residents attended the forum, which was very educational. As Sgt. Henderson stated: "We are in a war. Right now there are more of them than us, but if we all band together, there will be more of us than them."
Should you or your group be interested in a presentation on the issue of meth, please contact the coalition. We are all available to speak to any interested group upon request.
For questions or more information on the Gila County Meth Coalition, contact Chair Claudia DalMolin at the Gila County Sheriff's Office (928) 425-4440, co-chair Bianca DalMolin at (928) 701-1790, facilitator Peggy Huggins at (928) 425-1887 or media liaison Lu DuBois at (928) 467-2515.