Comments Off on Michigan’s Methamphetamine incidents surge to all-time high

LANSING – When Tim Haney saw yellow police barrier tape surrounding a building in downtown Charlotte two years ago, he joked to himself that a meth lab must have gone bad.B9316884590Z_1_20150408130641_000_G2FAEJJ4R_1-0

It only took a few minutes for this former addict — now 11 years clean — to find out that a real meth lab had exploded and caused thousands of dollars worth of damage near City Hall and the Fire Department.

“You know there are addicts,” said Haney, a 47-year-old married father of two. “But I just had no idea that something going on here was on the same level as bigger cities.”

Since 2013, Michigan police officers have found more than 1,500 meth labs and dump sites for lab equipment and the dangerous chemical byproducts that come from producing the highly addictive stimulant.

The number last year, 861, was a record and adds to the Great Lakes State’s reputation as one of the fastest growing areas for production and distribution of the drug.

Michigan State Police Sgt. Steven Spink describes Michigan’s meth crisis as “a real nightmare” that’s stretched state and local public safety budgets to the limit. No community appears safe.

Meth is nasty stuff,” Spink said. “We’ve seen people that have gone to the hospital because they’ve been burnt while trying to cook it, and they start cooking it again the day they’re out.”

State Police found 23 meth labs in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties last year and more than a dozen sites with lab equipment or dumped chemicals.

Charlotte’s meth lab explosion in 2013 took place in a second floor apartment on the same block as City Hall and the Fire Department.

The blast damaged the west wall of the structure and forced tenant Derek Ayers to pay more than $18,000 in restitution. He pleaded guilty to two counts of operating a meth lab and was sentenced to at least three years in prison.

Labs are a year-round problem in Michigan, and April is typically the month where dumping sites start popping up along highways, residential streets, parks and other public spaces.

It’s not uncommon for police officers to find dangerous chemicals used to cook meth stored in coolers, backpacks, trash bags and soda bottles just a few miles away from where the drug was cooked, Spink said.

“April showers bring May flowers,” said Spink, one of at least 350 state officers trained for meth cases. “But they also bring dump sites. And you just can’t leave them alone.”

Cleanup costs for a meth lab or dump site can range anywhere from $500 to $2,500

Since federal funds to cover some meth-related cleanup have ebbed in recent years, it adds more pressure at the state and local levels to find answers.

“The cost is what is hurting everybody,” Spink said.

Michigan’s 1,240 townships compose at least 96 percent of the state and have been hit hard in the fight against meth for at least a decade because of cuts in state revenue sharing, said Catherine Mullhaupt of the Michigan Townships Association.

But townships are still finding ways to work with State Police and county sheriff departments to find answers. Townships aren’t mandated to provide public safety services to their residents.

Mullhaupt said prevention of meth-related incidents is not only a crime issue, but one tied to economic development that isn’t limited to a community’s size or location.

“There are places all over this state where people and communities are hurting, and they need help,” Mullhaupt said.

Tracking OTC drugs

The Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder set limitations last year on availability of cold and allergy medications that can be used to create meth.

A law went in effect Jan. 1 that limits the purchase of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine or a mixture of the drugs to no more than 9 grams within a 30-day period. The law also prohibits a person from possessing more than 12 grams of either chemical or a mixture of the two.

Michigan is one of 27 states that uses a real-time online tracking system called NPLEx to monitor the purchases of cold and allergy medications at pharmacies and stores.

Mullhaupt, Spink and Haney all agree that educating the public about meth, its production and distribution, and the hold it can have on addicts is one of the most proactive ways to address the problem.

Spink estimates that State Police officials give about 500 presentations a year to business owners and other groups who could be affected by production of the drug. Mobile homes, portable toilets and even septic tanks can get in the wrong hands, he said.

“What’s frightening is that you often don’t know who is doing this,” Spink said.

Haney is an outpatient counselor at Michigan Therapeutic Consultants in Lansing who has seen the number of clients trying to recover from meth, opiates and other drugs rise from 75 to over 160 in the past year.

Haney has plans to open a new recovery center in Charlotte within two weeks because of the that community’s growing need.

Meth’s grip on Michigan is easy to understand; it’s cheap to make and always in demand because of its euphoric effects, Haney said.

“When you first start using it you feel like you’re invincible and that nothing can stop you,” said Haney, who was an addict for nearly eight years. “Then you realize you haven’t been to sleep for three days, you’re seeing crazy things and you’re hearing voices.”

Tutt Gorman, Portland’s city manager, said poor code and ordinance enforcement in a community could make it an easy target for makers and addicts of the drug.

Portland has a population of nearly 4,000 residents. The last arrest for methamphetamine possession in the city was less than three weeks ago.

State Police discovered eight meth labs in Ionia County last year — a county record.

“You just have to be diligent because the recidivism rate for meth is huge,” said Gorman, a former city attorney and prosecutor. “People can change; they can get back on the wagon (and stay clean), but then get right back off.”

The State Police encourage residents to call its anonymous tip line at (866) 638-4847 to report suspicious activity they believe could be meth-related.

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2015/04/08/michigans-meth-incidents-surge-time-high/25465261/

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