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Community gathers to fight drug

by Sheila Gardner

More than 250 people – schoolchildren to senior citizens – packed the fellowship hall at Carson Valley United Methodist Church on Thursday to learn just how invasive methamphetamine is in Carson Valley.

“We need to link our hands together to protect our children from this dangerously addictive drug,” said Frank Grayshield, representing the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.

“We’re really involved in an effort to create healthier, safer communities and we can’t do it alone,” he said.

“Let’s Talk About Methamphetamine, An Evening for Family and Friends,” was sponsored by the Partnership of Community Resources, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Washoe Tribe.

“We don’t want to wait until there are drug dealers on every corner,” said Cheryl Bricker, executive director of the partnership. “We embrace the concept of the community coming together.”

With the sheriff’s office Street Enforcement Team, Douglas County deputies and Tri-Net Narcotics Task Force making almost daily drug arrests, community members said they were concerned.

“It’s not just a law enforcement problem, it’s a social problem. That’s why you’re here,” said Rory Planeta, a task force investigator.

He took the audience through the highs and lows of methamphetamine addiction, explaining how easy it is to acquire the drug and the ultimate cost to the addict and the community.

An addict with a $100-a-day habit can be responsible for up to $365,000 in stolen property a year to finance the addiction, Planeta said.

“Our area is a distribution hub for Indiana, Florida and Wyoming with our proximity to highways 395, 80 and 50,” he said.

Planeta ended his presentation with a video showing babies and toddlers being taken out of homes where methamphetamine was manufactured.

“I’ve seen this video 50 times and it bothers me every time,” he said. “I have five kids and five grandchildren. We’ve got to stop this stuff.

“People ask me why I worked narcotics so long,” said the veteran law enforcement officer. “It’s the kids.”

Dawn Hare, a counselor at Scarselli Elementary School, is a licensed drug and alcohol counselor.

“The problem with methamphetamine addiction is that from the moment you are addicted, there is no easy way out. It takes two years for the brain to recover. That’s two years of depression, hard work, crying on your bed,” she said.

“This is not a 28-day treatment. People go out, come in, go out and come in. That’s something we need to get across to health insurance companies.”

She encouraged participants to ask retail stores to store over-the-counter cold medication and other readily available methamphetamine ingredients behind the counter.

“We do have a lot of power,” she said.

Doug Swalm is in charge of Douglas County’s Alternative Sentencing program which strives to keep people with drug convictions or misdemeanor offenses under supervision but out of jail.

“Without treatment, it’s just not going to work,” he said.

Meth addicts who are arrested generally spend 30 days in Douglas County Jail to detox.

“It takes 30 to 40 days to purge the system,” he said. “They need rest, medical attention and food and they can get all that in jail.”

From there, Swalm places inmates in residential programs in Fallon and Lake Tahoe for a 28-day intensive treatment and up to six months in transitional programs.

“If they run, violate their probation or use drugs, it starts all over again. There’s quite an incentive to stay with the program,” Swalm said.

Sheriff Ron Pierini was blunt in his assessment of the extent of methamphetamine use in Douglas County.

“It’s out of control,” he said. “In our area, when you arrest people, there is somebody waiting in line to take their spot.”

He urged residents to be vigilant in their own families and in their neighborhoods.

“We need to make a tough stand,” he said. “We need you to report what needs to be reported.

“We have resources. We’re here to help you. We want to help you solve this issue with us. This has got to stop.”

Mary Wolery, a school counselor and a partnership director, said she was overwhelmed by the turnout.

“It tells me people are concerned,” she said. “People are asking questions, this is where we build the momentum.”

She invited residents to join the partnership’s methamphetamine advisory task force.

“That’s where the real work gets done,” she said.

The task force meets monthly and members include parents, other community members and representatives of law enforcement, substance abuse treatment, businesses and schools.

“Everybody is working together to come at this problem. We need more resources, we need more treatment,” she said.

Ten-year-old Nathan Tripp of Carson City attended with his parents Michael and Lupita.

“Methamphetamine is dangerous to the world,” he said. “It needs to be stopped so we can have a safer world.”

Michael Tripp said the information gave him a heightened awareness.

“I knew it was a bad problem, but now it’s more apparent, the trafficking, what’s going on in the neighborhood, in people’s families,” he said.

Adelina Osorio and Alfred Durant Sr., brought their 10-year-old son Alfred Jr. from Woodfords.

“We came for the education, so my son knows right from wrong,” she said.

Alfred, a fifth grader at Diamond Valley School, said the subject of methamphetamine doesn’t come up often among his friends.

“It depends on who he hangs out with,” Osorio said. “We watch out very closely who he is with.”

Durant said the information would be educational for the family.

“It will teach us how to cope if it ever happens and what symptoms to look for,” he said.

Emmanuel Drake, 20, of Smith Valley, and Ashley Borrelli, 16, of Gardnerville, attended the forum at the invitation of Pastor Leo Kruger of Valley Christian Fellowship.

“I think I have a lot of knowledge, but this information will help me be more aware of the people around me,” Ashley said.