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Meth spending may be best choice

Local editorial

Attacking the root of so many problems might yield the best return

Sometimes we put society's problems into neat little boxes. He's a criminal, we say. She's a drug user. He didn't take care of his kids.

But the fact is that it usually doesn't work that way. Instead, one problem causes another, and that results in a third. The problems are connected, and increasingly in Oregon and Jackson County, the connection is methamphetamine.

Follow the thread in crime, and chances are you'll eventually find methamphetamine.

Look behind reports of child abuse, and you'll learn that danger at home increasingly results from parents' use of the drug.

Check up on teenagers' abuse of drugs, and you'll see that only marijuana draws more patients for addiction treatment in the state's adolescent residential care program.

Talk about meth and how it is affecting Oregon came to a head of sorts last week, when Children First of Oregon released its annual report on the well-being of the state's children. It concluded, as did an annual report card last summer, that Oregon today fails kids more than it has in at least a dozen years.

— Reports of abuse are up 61 percent since 1994, for example. Statewide and in Jackson County, child advocates lack the funding to investigate about half the claims. At the same time, more kids than ever are living in what the group calls extreme risk of being harmed. Almost across the board, Jackson County advocates blamed the statistics on the prevalence of methamphetamine.

Children's advocates criticized Gov. Ted Kulongoski's proposed state budget because it cuts funding for some programs that could benefit children. Oregon, they said, has an obligation to keep kids safe and healthy.

We think that's true, but it's also a fact that Oregon has too little money to cover the bases, a concept that extends to almost any critical program or agency on the state-funding list.

Kulongoski is putting time and money toward the Governor's Methamphetamine Task Force, formed in October to tackle the scourge that is threatening Oregon on many fronts.

We don't like the child-welfare numbers reported by Children First any more than the next person, but we accept the reality that Oregon has only so much money to go around.

As long as that's the reality, the governor's effort to slow meth use ' among kids as well as adults ' might just be the best place for Oregon to spend.