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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • “Trail of meth keeps growing”

  • Ashland. Elmira. Bath. Savona. Erwin. Corning. Lindley. Bradford. Southport. Tuscarora. Caton. What’s one thing these regional communities have in common? Unfortunately, they’ve all been the site of a methamphetamine-related arrest or other incident over the past year. Go back a few years --  or ...
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  • Ashland. Elmira. Bath. Savona. Erwin. Corning. Lindley. Bradford. Southport. Tuscarora. Caton.
    What’s one thing these regional communities have in common? Unfortunately, they’ve all been the site of a methamphetamine-related arrest or other incident over the past year. Go back a few years --  or move your finger along the map into the counties west of Steuben or east of Chemung -- and the trail of communities touched by meth keeps spreading.
    And this just represents the meth-related activity we know about. As Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike said last June shortly after the discovery of a meth lab south of Dundee, “If we found one in Yates County, I can guarantee you there are others.”
    It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: lately it seems like we could start a meth-bust-of-the-month club around the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions. It’s cause for alarm. We can’t say that we weren’t warned.  Eight years ago the State Commission on Investigation (SIC) released a report that identified the Southern Tier as a hotbed of criminal meth activity. The 2005 report warned that meth would become an increasingly dire public health and safety threat throughout the state unless New York adopted new and tougher laws to combat the drug's proliferation. Most importantly, the report moved the Legislature and then-Governor George Pataki to act quickly to put in place New York’s first comprehensive anti-meth law.
    But less than a decade later, it seems we’re wise to heed the warnings once again.
    Awareness remains one key. The 2006 law established a “Methamphetamine Electronic Clearinghouse” website through the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to “serve as the primary source of public information and available education on methamphetamine” for New Yorkers. But a quick stop by that online site shows that while it may generally contain some still useful information, it hasn’t been kept up to date. As far as I can tell, this state-level site has never been well promoted or attended to, and it’s fallen by the wayside. That should change.
    In the meantime local events like the one being held in Elmira  April 24th by the Bath-based Institute for Human Services are critical. The Institute’s upcoming Meth Lab Recognition seminar will reach out to health and human service professionals, especially those who provide home visits or work in neighborhoods in other ways, to provide information on the warning signs of a meth lab and how best to report it. Find out more at www.ihsnet.org.
    Of course local law enforcement remains the front line of defense, and education. Regional law enforcement agencies, from local police departments to sheriff’s offices to the State Police, continue to do outstanding work protecting our communities. Same goes for our first responders confronted with the dangerous aftermath of a meth lab discovery.
    Page 2 of 2 - But that means we have a responsibility to make sure our laws keep pace with the goal of putting meth manufacturers and sellers out of business in New York. We shouldn’t risk anything when it comes to illegal drugs and drug trafficking. Tougher laws can always be helpful in the prosecution and punishment of meth criminals while, at the same, sparking the broader public discussion that needs to be ongoing.  So I continue to sponsor legislation in the Senate to significantly increase the criminal penalties for possessing, selling or manufacturing the dangerous and highly addictive drug.
    Maybe most importantly, we also hope tougher anti-meth laws will act as a stronger deterrent among our young people at risk of falling prey to this cycle of addiction and tragedy.  You can find out more on my Senate website, omara.nysenate.gov.
    Methamphetamine, according to the United States Department of Justice, is one of the nation's greatest drug threats.  A recent department report noted that the drug is at its highest levels of availability and purity -- and lowest cost -- since 2005.  That's attributed to rising Mexican imports, but also because of increased small-scale domestic production.  While most prevalent in the western and southern regions of the nation, meth can't be taken lightly anywhere.
    The toll the drug takes is remarkable. The RAND Corporation estimates meth costs America between $16 and $48 billion per year in treatment, healthcare, and foster care services, as well as the costs of crime and lost productivity. For more information visit The Meth Project (http://foundation.methproject.org/), which last month announced a collaborative effort with The Partnership at Drugfree.org on a revitalized public awareness campaign to reduce substance abuse among teens.
    The addiction, violence and tragedy that are the byproducts of the rampant production and use of methamphetamine pose unacceptable risks to our neighborhoods, threaten the safety of police officers and first responders, and burden local systems of health care, criminal justice and social services.
    We can’t rest easy on this one.
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