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U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, convened an anti-drug summit last week that brought together participants at six locations throughout the sprawling 8th District she represents in Congress. The innovative session was an interactive video conference involving presentations at six colleges throughout the region. Locations included Cape Girardeau, Park Hills, Rolla, West Plains, Malden and Poplar Bluff. Presenters included officers of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the SEMO Drug Task Force, guidance counselors, drug counselors and a high school student, as well as Emerson and assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Ferrell.

All these participants noted Missouri's dubious status as second only to California in the number of illegal methamphetamine labs. All agreed that the nation's war on drugs must be fought on all fronts and involve everyone from parents to police and school staff to students.

Speaker after speaker stressed the seriousness of the problem. An estimated 23.8 percent of the nation's high school seniors used illegal drugs in 1995, said Emerson. Some 259,000 Missourians, or about 5 percent of the state's population, suffer from alcohol or drug abuse problems or both. In 1992, only three meth labs were seized in the state. Last year the number exploded to 250. This year, authorities expect the total to climb to more than 400.

"A lot of people say we can't fight this, we are not going to win." But she and other speakers insisted the effort can succeed, although "there is no cookie-cutter solution."

It is good to see efforts such as the summit Emerson convened, and heartening that state-of-the-art communications can be put to such uses. It will take all of us, though, to make the participants' dream of victory in the drug war a reality.