Law enforcement may be one step closer to getting help in fighting the battle against methamphetamine abuse, thanks to a bill making its way to the president for approval. Although the Combat Meth Act is aimed at assisting rural agencies by providing resources for combating drug-related crimes, it may not hold the key to helping establish a local in-patient treatment center, local officials said.
"I hope it will help, but I still think it's hard for rural areas to get money," said Annette Gianinetti, a member of the anti-drug group Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse. "I think they are paying attention to COMA and what we are doing, but I also know that the funds are not there."
COMA members want to create an in-patient treatment drug rehabilitation program in Craig. Currently, Craig only offers out-patient or long-term counseling options. Creating an option for people to get immediate treatment close to home also may help stem addictions, Gianinetti said.
Under former hospital administrator Randy Phelps, The Memorial Hospital had secured a feasibility study to determine whether in-patient treatment could be run out of hospital facilities. But a meeting to discuss the report's results with a representative from Diamond Healthcare Corp. -- the company responsible for the study -- has been postponed without indication of whether it will be rescheduled, hospital officials said.
Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said one way the formation of a treatment center may move forward is through local efforts. Securing a treatment center and drug court that would offer some drug abusers treatment options in lieu of jail time top the list of priorities for the anti-drug group.
"Hopefully, the local attention will keep surfacing at the hospital and make need for it," he said. "(Hospital staff) sees (the effects of meth use) every day."
Grinstead said the biggest hurdle with treating drug users is a high rate of recidivism that usually lands users back in jail. Grinstead said users need more treatment options, not more jail time.
He's talked to Rep. John Salazar about funding for a local clinic but has not heard back from him. Earlier this year, Grinstead talked to Salazar in a public meeting about what could be done to help Moffat County. Salazar offered staff time and advice on any grant request Moffat County wanted to make.
One component of the Combat Meth Act aims to boost treatment options and to research better ways to rehabilitate drug users. However the bill mainly calls for resources for law enforcement to tackle an increase in methamphetamine cases.
A proposal by U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar would add a methamphetamine task force within the Drug Enforcement Agency. The task force would try to improve and target the government's policies of going after the production and trafficking of meth.
Grinstead said taking those duties away from a local drug task force, the Grand Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement team may not be the best use of federal dollars.
"What I'd like to see is GRAM--NET get a larger amount of their funds through a Byrne grant," he said.
The Edward Byrne Grant is a partnership authorizes money to state law enforcement agencies, which GRAMNET has been funded with in the past.
The Combat Meth Act would provide $15 million to train state and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute meth offenders. In addition, it also would provide $10 million -- $5 million to hire new federal prosecutors as well as train local and state prosecutors in drug laws and $5 million to provide services for children affected by meth use.
The proposal has passed the Senate, and next, it will be revised by the House of Representatives and the Senate before heading to the president for approval.
Amy Hamilton can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 208, or firstname.lastname@example.org.