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Officials to get tough on meth use

A community plan of action against the growing threat of methamphetamine likely will be announced next month.

About 100 people from all corners of Jackson County met Thursday to devise a countywide assault on the illegal narcotic. Representatives broke into groups and identified priorities in drug treatment, prevention, public safety and family stabilization.

It's not OK that people refer to this as Meth-ford, said participant Polly Williams, who manages programs for the Carpenter Foundation.

County officials blame meth use for overburdened public resources ranging from jails and courts to health services and schools. Local police have made more meth-related arrests and seized larger quantities of the drug in the past year.

The county's first 11 cases of children taken from their homes this year and placed into protective custody can be blamed on their parents' meth addiction, county officials said. In addition, eight out of 10 delinquent kids in Jackson County have used meth.

— The afternoon's discussions focused largely on educating children and the larger community with a vast multi-media campaign on the consequences of meth use. Some participants discussed the need for legislation that would ensure children learn about the dangers of meth in school as early as third grade.

Employers could help by requiring a meth awareness course to obtain certification to handle food and alcohol, one group said. Realtors and landlords could make commitments to provide drug-free housing.

Other groups suggested raising a countywide tax to support more treatment and prevention tactics and even advocated for a worldwide ban on pseudoephedrine, the common cold medicine that, combined with other chemicals, yields meth.

Ricardo Gutierrez, a board member of Southern Oregon Drug Awareness and former addict in recovery for the past five years, said he was very hopeful Thursday's talks will make a difference.

You've got to make these people (meth users) feel uncomfortable, Gutierrez said.

You've got to make them feel unwanted, he said, adding that everyone needs to be more aware of meth houses in their neighborhood.

The county's meth task force will join efforts with Gov. Ted Kulongoski's campaign against the drug, said Carin Niebuhr, alcohol and drug program manager for Jackson County Health and Human Services. The county will coordinate any public service announcements with an upcoming statewide media campaign, she said.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail .