If the state follows a Crow Wing County suggestion, the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center could host pilot programs to treat methamphetamine drug users.
At Tuesday's county board meeting, Commissioner Terry Sluss, meth prevention coordinator, provided a multipage concept for community-based intervention and treatment of meth. Commissioners supported the idea. The concept will be mailed to the governor, lieutenant governor and members of the House and Senate for consideration during this legislative session.
Sluss cited research suggesting meth addicts have little motivation to enter treatment for up to six months after they discontinue using the drug. He recommended a model for a continuum of care that included lockup facilities, education, counseling, health care, psychiatric care services, employment training, family reunification when possible and transition to a community work/living program.
"The research shows that meth users lack motivation, have reduced cognitive skills, are aggressive and sometimes violent during the first several months of their incarceration/treatment," Sluss wrote in his report. "During this time period there is no known treatment for this behavior rather than separation and lockdown."
Later, the continuum of care would allow for fewer restrictions and a treatment environment with counseling and education when prisoners were willing to work for those privileges. That period could include family visits and General Educational Development, or GED, training to prepare prisoners for job success.
The third phase would focus on job and independent living skills, as well as work. The prisoner faces drug testing and joins a 12-step program while in confinement. A final phase allows a resident more time outside the facility, work in the community and potential family reunification. Random drug testing and probation monitoring is increased and will be continued for a probationary period.
Sluss anticipates it would take one to two years to complete the program.
"This model would work well in conjunction with the current studies in the Ninth Judicial District, which could authorize Drug Court, a successful model being used in California and some other states," Sluss wrote. "It would also work best for initial interventions and first offenders."
In other meth news, the county board will delay enforcing the new meth ordinance to allow more time to inform businesses. The ordinance, which went into effect on Jan. 1, calls for drugs used in making meth to be displayed and offered for sale behind a checkout counter, within a pharmacy or other controlled counter where the public is not permitted. Violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor crime.
Sluss said the county board provided the legal notice, extended to Dispatch news stories and the Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce, but wanted to provide extra notification. A letter was drafted to notify individual businesses. It went from the auditor's office to the assessor's office for identification of affected businesses, but was apparently not sent, Sluss said.
Sluss apologized for the mailing failure.
He said the county received at least a dozen calls, mainly from distributors, who were upset about the ordinance. And Sluss said when Crow Wing County deputies provided information to businesses on what products were affected some people thought they were actively pulling products from the shelves.
Sluss, who spoke to Sheriff Eric Klang about the matter Tuesday, said that was not true. Sluss said he realizes now a brochure may have been an effective way to help businesses cope with the new ordinance. But he said the ordinance language is quite clear.
"We are looking at pills and ephedrine and pseudoephedrine content," Sluss said. "If it's there, they need to be controlled as soon as possible."
Liquid forms, which have not been found to be used in meth manufacturing, are not affected by the ordinance.
Sluss said he believes the community has taken a leadership role in fighting meth and there are outside forces -- distributors and manufacturers -- who may be fearful the state is watching for its own future laws.
"There are some who want to make sure we fail," Sluss said. "The vast majority of people are doing just exactly what we intended to do and they are following the ordinance."
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