Local officials discuss dangers of methamphetamine at forum

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2003

The truth sometimes hurts and it can be scary, too.

That's what participants in a community forum on the methamphetamine menace were told Thursday night.

Jack Wittkopp observed, "It's scary to tell you the truth. We've got a whole new ball game here."

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Wittkopp, director of chemical dependency treatment programming at Austin Medical Center, was one of the panel members, discussing the prevalence of methamphetamine drugs in the area.

He was following up on a point made by Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi that interstate highways allow drug traffickers quick and easy access to where their product is marketed.

It's availability along Interstate 90 west to the South Dakota border has coined the phrase "Meth Alley."

The Mower County Chemical Health Coalition and the Mower County Methamphetamine Task Force partnered for its third community forum in Ruby Rupner Auditorium at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. Forty people attended.

Anazi said the presence of anhydrous ammonia, a key ingredient in the drug that is prevelent in farming communities in Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota, makes it a prime locale for its manufacture.

The sheriff said the first local arrest for methamphetamine possession occurred in 1998 and now such arrests are commonplace.

"We know it's out there. It's just a matter of catching them with it," she said.

Amazi brought her narcotics detection dog, Tia, with her, for a demonstration of the canine's abilities

She also brought along the drug itself. While Wittkopp described what the drug does to the brain, Amazi brought another perspective.

"It smells like urine," she said.

Mower County Attorney Patrick W. Flanagan spent time detailing how prosecutors were able to breakup two drug trafficking rings in Mower County.

One included the seizure of 1 1/2 pounds of methamphetamine at a Lansing mobile home and the other, Flanagan said, involved federal charges against a suspect.

Duane Stanley, a probation officer for the Mower County Correctional Services, told how the majority of the department's clients involved with methamphetamine crimes are juveniles.

Perhaps the most enlightening moments of the evening came when members of the Parents United support group spoke out.

All were mothers of daughters involved with methamphetamine drugs. The parents were candid about how the drug had impacted both their children and themselves.

"It's been two years of hell. It's changed my life," said one mother.

Another mother told of dealing with a daughter, who first began experimenting with alcohol in the eighth grade and quickly added methamphetamine to her diet.

"If you don't think it's here, you're fooling yourselves," she told the audience.

A question and answer period concluded the two-hour forum.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at