Pinal County officials say they are seeing an “extreme” methamphetamine problem across the county.
As a result, the county’s only hospital, Casa Grande Regional Medical Center, sees about two methamphetamine addicts in the emergency room every day. At that hospital, two to three out of every 10 babies born are methamphetamine-affected. The county has twice the state rate of drug-exposed newborns.
The county is facing the problem head-on with the Pinal County Anti-Meth Coalition. The coalition, launched in September 2006, is taking a comprehensive approach to the problem, addressing dealing, addiction and recovery.
“It’s extreme,” said Cindy Schaider, director of the Casa Grande Alliance and coordinator of the Pinal County Anti-Meth Coalition, of the county’s methamphetamine problem.
“Methamphetamine abuse causes physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and familial harm.”
The coalition includes six community coalitions, key community stakeholders, law enforcement, and public health and mental health service providers. The county also
participates in the state’s anti-methamphetamine efforts.
“Pinal County is very unique in that rather than starting a coalition and pushing ideas down into the community, we are supporting six existing community coalitions and engaging them in a countywide process,” Schaider said. “We have excellent community-based drug prevention coalitions already in place. Now we’re trying to get everyone talking and facing the same direction.”
In its first year, the coalition is on its way to improving the way the key players interact, with the goal of increasing access to treatment for methamphetamine users and their families.
“I think it’s excellent because the major players in systems such as adult detention, juvenile probation and treatment are having intentional conversations about how to work more cooperatively with a shared goal,” Schaider said.
County officials see the methamphetamine problem not only as a health issue but also as something that causes more crime and hurts families.
“Thankfully, we have many of the key players already attuned to the problem,” District 2 Supervisor Sandie Smith said in a news release. “It is not enough to be active at the institutional level, though. We need families to understand that this is a life-wrecking drug and it is ruining families and relationships across all economic levels.”
About 70 percent of crime in the state is related to methamphetamine use, according to Attorney General Terry Goddard.
In 2005, about 38 percent of drug-related charges in Pinal County were for methamphetamine, according to the Pinal County Anti-Meth Coalition. Adult probation reports that 48 percent of county probationers who tested positive for drugs were positive for methamphetamine.