How methamphetamine use was affecting Crow Wing County came as a shock even to social services supervisors.
The subject came before the Crow Wing County Board Tuesday and had commissioners thinking about options to deal with meth and the expected drag it will have on county taxpayers.
Lynda Erickson, child protection supervisor, was a presenter at the April 19 meth forum at Central Lakes College. In preparation for the event, Erickson said staff looked at numbers to confirm how much of an effect meth was having in the county. The anecdotal feeling was that meth had a lot to do with current workloads. The numbers confirmed it. Erickson said they were astounding.
She said meth is involved in 50 percent of child protection services. Recently 37 children younger than 8 were in out-of-home placements. Meth was involved in 27 of those cases.
"That was even a shock to us," Erickson said. "It has a lot to do with what we do every day. ... At this point (meth) is really the big drug of choice in our community."
Other cases involved alcohol or another drug.
Susan Beck, county human services director, said the quick onset of the addiction and the difficulty in a long detoxification and recovery are contributing factors. Erickson said the meth forum at the college had parents and grandparents asking tough questions about how to get treatment for their children or how to protect grandchildren.
Beck said funding for treatment is not available for a number of people because their marginal income makes them ineligible.
"We -- right now -- aren't funded to deal with prevention and that's ridiculous," Beck said. She noted the county will feel the economics of meth in detention costs and out-of-home placements of children.
"This is going to cripple us expense-wise," Commissioner Gary Walters said.
Peter Herlofsky Jr., county administrator, said: "We need a meth czar."
County Board Chairman Terry Sluss said the county could look at the budget and discuss that suggestion. Erickson has been receiving phone calls from people interested in being part of a county effort.
Of the recent momentum, Beck said: "It's foolish to let it drop at this point once we've started the education process."
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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