News

Congressman leads on meth

As the methamphetamine epidemic reaches into eastern states, the federal officials are looking for creative ways to battle the inexpensive and dangerous drug.

They might get some help from Whidbey Islanders.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, as co-chair of the Congressional Caucus to Fight and Control Methamphetamine, is hosting Methamphetamine Town Hall meetings in Western Washington five counties, including one in Oak Harbor Thursday, June 2. The public is welcome to attend the meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the North Whidbey Middle School commons.

Abbey Levenshus, Larsen’s communications director, said the purpose of the meetings is to educate local governments about what’s available from the federal government; to allow police, school personnel and other “stakeholders” to hear from each other; and for Larsen to learn what’s working and not working to fight meth abuse on a local level.

“Since Washington state was one of the first hit and hardest hit in term of the methamphetamine epidemic,” Levenshus said, “Representative Larsen wants to spread the message, help other communities to deal with growing meth problems and make sure the federal government steps up to the plate.”

Levenshus said Larsen will take what he learns, especially local success stories, back to Washington D.C.

While meth used to be considered a “rural drug,” it’s now moving into cities. And while it used be be made in small labs for personal use, Levenshus said drug cartels are now getting involved in manufacturing the pseudoephedrine-based drug.

Oak Harbor Police Chief Steve Almon compares meth to crack cocaine in its potency, personality-altering and addictive qualities. Meth, unfortunately, is much easier to make or obtain.

Not only does meth affect the people who take it, the production is also hazardous to people and the environment. It is made with toxic and flammable chemicals, such as lye and anhydrous ammonia.

“People who do meth and kill their brain cells,” he said, “should not be messing with explosive chemicals.”

Almon will be among the many Whidbey officials who will be part of the panel discussion, which Larsen will moderate. Other include Coupeville Marshall Lenny Marlborough, Sheriff Mike Hawley, Oak Harbor School Superintendent Rick Schulte, Compass Health staff, a youth advocate and a parent of a meth abuser.

Levenshus said Larsen will discuss successful programs like Meth Watch, federal assistance that is available to local governments, and how the Bush Administration has tried to cut funding for police and other meth-control programs.

“He’s helping to pressure the federal government to do more,” she said.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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