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Meth users’ kids may get different treatment

Coupeville’s Vivian Rogers-Decker knows how it feels to have someone in her family addicted to methamphetamines.

Rogers-Decker said her brother was a meth addict who came to live with her and her family in Coupeville. While living there, she said her brother became a major contributor to bringing meth to Whidbey Island.

He has since been kicked out of the home, but Rogers-Decker said she found a meth cookbook under the bed he slept in. She said she now wonders what kind of impact this could have on her son, who now sleeps in the bed previously used by her brother.

It’s that experience that may have spurred her to join other Island County residents on the Island County Methamphetamine Action Team. A couple of the team’s members were joined Oct. 4 by a state health official and an Anacortes nurse to ask the Board of Island County Commissioners to approve a plan directing the care of children taken from homes where meth is used.

There were 19 meth lab busts on in Island County in 2003 and 10 children were taken from their homes, said Rosie Noble, an Anacortes nurse who is spearheading the effort to get the plan passed.

“This memorandum of understanding is a guideline for all of us to follow,” she said.

It’s now up to state’s attorney general, Department of Health and Human Services Division of Children & Family Services, the Island County Prosecutor, Whidbey General Hospital and the hospital at Naval Air Station Whidbey to approve the plan for use.

The plan was unanimously approved by the board of commissioners and must now go to the state attorney general to sign before becoming official, which may take 4-6 weeks. The department, with which the meth action team has been working for several months, can make more changes to the plan.

Before the county commissioners made their decision on Monday, however, Noble spoke about personal experience with drugs.

Noble said her son, who is addicted to meth, now sits in prison after being arrested in a drug bust. She said because of her son’s drug use, she’s concerned about the effect of the drug on her son’s two children.

Her personal experience, however, did not soften her view on punishment. Because the parents put the children in the situation of possibly being exposed to meth, they should have an automatic two-year jail sentence, she said.

The county commissioners praised the action team members. Commissioner Mike Shelton said he thinks the team demonstrates how a community can come together to solve a problem, rather than relying on the government to solve the problem. Commissioner Mac McDowell echoed that thought.

“If the local community’s not behind it, we won’t make a dent,” he said.

Island County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jan Smith said the sheriff’s office is still reviewing the proposal. But since the sheriff’s office already works with other agencies, she said signing the proposal will not change law enforcement practices.

History of the team

The meth action team began 2 1/2 years ago and is funded by a $4,000 grant. It falls under the umbrella of the South Whidbey Island Youth Center, which is responsible for applying for and receiving the grant. The Seeds of Change drug free coalition also is run by the youth center. It is entering its fifth and final year of a federal drug-free communities grant funding. This year, Jones, who is the Seeds of Change’s only employee, said the program will receive about $73,000 from the grants.

She said the meth action team’s $4,000 grant pays primarily for special projects. One upcoming project is a videotaped panel discussion about the effects of meth by a law enforcement official and meth addicts in treatment or recovery.

Volunteers on the meth team are also sent to training on media relations and signs that someone is buying meth ingredients. Besides a core group of 12 volunteers, Jones said more than 700 members of law enforcement, teachers, and service clubs are affiliated with the group.

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