Craig tackles meth problem

Task force meeting well attended

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At 14, Nicole says she was offered methamphetamine the first day she walked into Moffat County High School.

"Someone said they had (meth) and asked if I wanted some. They said, 'This is how you get in around here,'" said Nicole, now 16. The teenager, who said she has been meth free for six months, didn't want to reveal her last name for fear of retribution from drug-using friends.

But Nicole's story is not unique, and the community is taking note. About 50 people showed for a meth task force meeting Tuesday at Craig City Hall, determined to combat what has been identified as a growing meth problem in Moffat County.

"We can be a great community, but not if we're all on drugs," said Mayor Dave DeRose, a moderator of the event. "We've taken care of our community infrastructure, but now we have to take care of us."

Community members identified needs that might help curb meth use. Strengthened neighborhood watch groups and communitywide education topped the lists. An increase in rehabilitation options and resources for drug users also were identified. People signed up for committees, but anyone is invited to join.

"I think it's going help a lot," Ernie Allen said.

Allen attended a meth education class held recently at the Holiday Inn. That program "really opened my eyes," he said.

The real estate agent said he was previously unaccustomed to the nuances of drug use.

"I've never seen drugs before," he said. "I didn't know what it was about."

Law enforcement is hoping that a communitywide effort to educate the public on meth use in the community is the first step to help eliminate it.

A strong neighborhood watch program would be helpful, Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said. While a program exists in Craig, it could be strengthened, he said.

"We've always been behind community policing," he said. "We've recognized for years that we need the whole community in on this process."

The harder part, he said, is teaching community members that law enforcement and the courts have to follow legal guidelines in prosecuting suspects for drug charges.

Another challenge that wasn't mentioned at the meeting was meth's high addiction rate and how hard rehabilitation is, said Narcotics Anonymous member Shelly Volkmar.

She echoed a need for more resources, stricter laws and probation guidelines to dissuade meth users. It also will take dedication to helping revamp lifestyles.

"People who are on meth have no self-esteem," she said. "They don't know how to do anything except sit in their house, do drugs and watch TV.

"It's an addiction, and it's absolutely awesome that we feel we now have community support."

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

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