More than 100 people gather in Owensboro to talk about meth; police officer says they’re losing battle with highly addictive drug

Crystal methamphetamine (Drug Enforcement Administration)
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The methamphetamine problem is so bad in Owensboro that the city commissioner hosted a community forum to discuss it, Katie Pickens reports for the Owensboro Times.

“This issue affects almost everyone in this community,” Commissioner Larry Conder told a crowd of more than 100 at the Sept. 10 forum.

Methamphetamine is also called meth, crystal, chalk and ice, among other things. It is an extremely addictive stimulant.

The forum included a panel offering perspectives from local law enforcement, a district judge and the director of a local group fighting substance abuse, all of whom said the issue with meth in Owensboro and Daviess County is worse than it’s ever been, Pickens reports.

“We’re seeing a shift from smokers” to those who inject the drug, said RonSonlyn Clark, senior director of substance-abuse services at RiverValley Behavioral Health. “Just ask those who work at the needle exchange clinic. We’re seeing an increase in crisis services from meth-induced psychosis, and we’re seeing an increase in dangers to law enforcement.”

Owensboro Police Department Street Crimes Unit Supervisor Sgt. Michael Nichols said police are losing the fight against meth, Pickens reports.

“There’s not a section of Owensboro devoid of this problem,” Nichols said. “Meth is the one demon that shows no mercy — it doesn’t care what [your race or nationality is]. Once it gets its claws into you, it’s a wrap. It truly is the devil, in my opinion.”

Nichols said that in 2016, the department found 3.8 pounds of meth. In 2017, the number was 8.9 pounds and in 2018 it was 14.1 pounds. Already this year, he said, 18.38 pounds have been logged into evidence, but most of the meth is never uncovered by law enforcement, Pickens reports.

Clark told the crowd that meth takes a financial toll on a community, saying that every dollar spent on meth equals $7.46 taken from the community, Pickens reports.

Mental Health Court Judge Lisa Jones said that while the problem was worse in that area than other parts of the state, all of Kentucky is struggling with the problem, which doesn’t get enough attention because of the epidemic of heroin and other opioids, Pickens reports.

“In Kentucky last year, there were 8,000 heroin arrests,” Jones said. “There were 35,000 meth arrests.”

Panelists said meth takes an average of four to seven attempts to quit, taking an average of 20 years off a user’s life; contributes greatly to abusive relationships and neglectful households and, as estimated by Nichols, contributes to 75 to 80 percent of violent incidents.

Anyone seeking treatment for a substance use disorder, including a meth addiction, can find help on the state’s treatment locator findhelpnowky.org or on the treatment hotline 1-833-8KY-HELP.