Holden - State making progress against meth, still more to do

Thursday, April 29, 2004

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Missouri's best chance to continue making headway in its long fight against methamphetamine is in educating the state's younger residents about the dangers of the drug, Gov. Bob Holden said Wednesday.

"We've got to be much more proactive in terms of education," he said. "I think that's where we have our greatest opportunity for success. To reach our young people before they even start -- that's the best thing we could do for the state of Missouri."

Holden spoke on the final day of his Governor's Meth Summit Conference, a three-day event that drew about 300 people from around the state in law enforcement, education, emergency response, social service and other organizations that deal with Missouri's meth program.

Speakers covered topics ranging from the child-safety issues raised by methamphetamine to the stimulant's history in Missouri, and representatives of the various agencies shared concerns and meth-fighting tips.

Cape Girardeau police chief Steve Strong said it was the first time a multi-disciplinary approach to methamphetamine was taken in such a meeting, incorporating not only law enforcement, but prevention and treatment as well.

"Law en-forcement can only do so much," Strong said. "Everyone has to work together if we are to accomplish anything. If we arrested everybody who used or dealt drugs today, if there were no effort to prevent, or treatment, we would not really win any war on drugs."

Scott County Presiding Judge David Dolan gave a presentation on drug courts at the summit, and said he also was encouraged by the multidisciplinary approach to fighting meth. Collaboration among all the areas would work, he said, because collaboration works in drug court.

Dolan said his presentation noted that by working together with the prosecutor, defense attorney, and probation, parole, and treatment personnel, not only does the offender get a chance to straighten out his life, but the cost savings is tremendous. If the 2,600 people now participating in drug court across the state were to have their probation or parole revoked and be sent to prison, Dolan said, it would cost $37 million to house them for one year.

"It's the collaboration that makes it work," Dolan said.

"When everybody is brought to the table, it's a good idea," said Strong.

"The more we can get together and get our heads together and talk about critical issues, the better off we're going to be," Kansas City police chief Rick Easley said. "The networking is extremely important in our profession."

The seizure of 2,860 meth labs in Missouri in 2003 and the first two months of 2004 shows that law enforcement is doing its job, Holden said.

Staff reporter Linda Redeffer contributed to this report.


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