Finding funding

Meth prevention group asks employers for help

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Twentymile Coal Company spent $50,000 last year on drug rehabilitation programs for four of its about 400 employees, said Ron Spangler, the company's human resource manager.

Because the high cost associated with drug use can burden a community, Spangler said his company might find merit in donating to a local effort aimed at curbing drug use.

"All awareness of drugs is important," he said, after a fund-raising meeting of the newly formed Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse, or C.O.M.A. The group is a volunteer-based task force that aims to combat an identified methamphetamine problem in the community.

C.O.M.A. leaders met at the Holiday Inn on Tuesday with the goal of raising $10,000 by invited area business leaders. However, only a few representatives from the area's businesses came.

C.O.M.A. leaders said they want to raise funds to complete a four-part mission of identifying, educating, rehabilitating and eradicating meth use in the community.

The group has printed pamphlets and stickers to advertise its cause.

Members want to curb meth use by funding anti-drug awareness billboards, supplying educational resources to area schools and establishing a matching-dollar fund for grant applications that could help establish rehabilitation programs.

C.O.M.A has collected $2,240 from its efforts, and local government entities have kicked in $4,100, said Kevin Langley, chairman of C.O.M.A.

"We want to create a shock factor," he said. "We want the public to understand what (meth) looks like and offer education toward prevention."

C.O.M.A.'s account is with the First National Bank of the Rockies; group treasurers are Shirley Simpson, Seema Garoutte and Neil McCandless.

Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said Tuesday's meeting was in part to encourage companies to start or tighten their drug-testing policies.

"The biggest question is how do we eradicate (meth) out of the community," he said.

"Maybe we need to get with all employers and ask them to do drug testing. Pretty soon we can run users out of places to get jobs."

Most important, Grinstead said, C.O.M.A.'s role could jump-start much needed local drug rehabilitation options.

The area's closest rehab facility is in Grand Junction, and its month-long treatment often isn't enough to curb powerful, long-term meth addictions.

A strong community effort against drug use, coupled with financial backing, could lure state and federal support for rehabilitation services, Grinstead said.

"The main thing is we want to help keep this going," he said. "This needs to be in place five years from now. If we want to eradicate (meth), we need to be a long-standing task force."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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