In an update to a blog I posted about the problems with methamphetamine use in Butte County, I went back to visit Paula Felipe at the Meth Strike Force to follow-up about how the Strike Force used the first of two California Endowment grants it received since 2007.
One result of the $150,000 grant was the Meth Strike Force's Comprehensive Substance Abuse Prevention Plan [PDF], a 73-page document with research about the community, medical issues, law enforcement and mental health issues related to meth.
Commander Carl Sturdy of the Butte County Interagency Narcotics Task Force says they found meth is a worse problem in Oroville than in Chico, its neighbor.
"The number of health and safety arrests in Oroville was only half as many as Chico, a city six times bigger than Oroville," Sturdy said.
There was no Meth Strike Force when Don Fultz needed to stop using methamphetamine back in 1996. He started using when he was 30 years old.
"Once I started, I didn’t get completely away from it for 14 years," he says.
Fultz says he used meth right up until the day that Child Protective Services came to his house and took his children way.
"They were gone 50 days," he said.
Fultz, who decided to begin college one year into his recovery, now works for the Meth Strike Force, as well as writes a column for the Oroville Mercury Register called Addiction Update. Fultz also has a private counseling business called Other Voice Recovery Services. He was recently asked to counsel at-risk students for the Oroville Union High School District. Fultz says meth treatment has changed a lot in the past few decades.
"The difference in how the solution to addiction is viewed today, as opposed to twenty years ago, is that the focus is shifting from supply eradication to demand reduction," Fultz says.
Demand reduction, Fultz explained, is basically any tool or program that keeps someone from wanting to use drugs in the first place. That includes prevention education, treatment improvement, and increased collaboration between law enforcement and the organizations that provide these programs.
The California Endowment funding also allowed The Meth Strike Force to seek the professional assistance of Doctor Alex Stalcup, a specialist in addiction medicine. Stalcup utilizes the 'disease model' approach to drug addiction. This views addiction as having a genetic component as well as an environmental component, one that is treated like a chronic disease. Stalcup educates the local community, physicians and substance abuse counselors, encouraging the use of medications for withdrawal and physical or mental health issues as part of treatment.
One of the effects on the community after the crackdown on meth labs in Butte County in 2005, according to Fultz, is that it has reduced the number of meth labs. But more of the drug is imported now. Fultz says when it comes to drug supply, he doesn't know if law enforcement anywhere can ever stop that.
"If we can't keep it out of prisons, which are highly controlled environments, how are we going to keep it off the streets?" Fultz says.