MONTROSE – The Montrose Meth Coalition has changed its name, not because its mission is accomplished, but because there is more work to be done.
The new name is the Coalition for a Drug Free Montrose County, said Gail Davidson, executive director of Partners and a member of the coalition’s executive board.
“The coalition was formed a few years ago when the meth problem was quite severe,” Davidson said. “Not to say that meth is still not an issue, but federal interdiction has made a difference and arrests have gone down in that area.”
Unfortunately, while meth use and arrests may be down, other drug arrests have skyrocketed, particularly the illegal use of prescription drugs, as well as ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana.
So the coalition decided to expand its approach to include all illegal drugs, she said.
The coalition is formed of many government, nonprofit and business interests, with the main goals being guided by four executive committees that work with different agencies as well as individual clients to combat drug use.
The four committees encompass the work of the coalition, said Davidson said, who heads up the Drug Endangered Children committee.
“I’m particularly focused on underage drinking issues, and we’re working on a regional approach and have it originate from the kids,” she said.
Traditional alcohol avoidance programs don’t work as well as peer-to-peer education, when kids learn from other kids, Davidson said. So she’s involving students to make posters after they learn the dangers of alcohol use. The coalition will help distribute the posters to area schools.
Davidson said she hopes the message gets to parents who think it’s OK for their teenagers to drink.
“It’s part of the culture here, and certainly legal, but it’s not legal for minors,” she said.
The Public Safety committee is headed by Montrose Police Chief Tom Chinn and Montrose County Sheriff Rick Dunlap, who report to the coalition on the work of the Seventh Judicial District Drug Task Force
“They give us updates on the task force and what they see as problems,” Davidson said. “They are very concerned about marijuana growers and also the West End, which is very dangerous for drug trafficking” from Mexico.”
The Drug Treatment committee is led by Carol Friedrich, director of Health and Human Services for Montrose County, and works with a lot of people who are mandated to take drug treatment by the courts.
“They work with those folks trying to provide service and help them stay in the program,” Davidson said. “They also have a group called Care and Share for family members of addicts.”
That’s only the tip of the iceberg of what the coalition does, she said, which supports many drug prevention programs and makes referrals to other agencies.
Since the damage caused by one person’s drug use affects the whole family, Davidson said, some programs give help to grandparents or other relatives who are caring for minor children while their parents are serving time for their drug use. A support group meets twice a month at the United Methodist Church.
Lance Michaels of U.S. Bank heads up the Prevention and Awareness committee, Davidson said, which has been working with local businesses to make presentations and raise awareness of the dangers of drug use.
“They get brochures and information out and about and set up booths for everything that’s going on,” she said.
To learn more about programs of the coalition, call Davidson at 240-8784.
Others on the executive committee include Jon Gordon, director of the Center for Mental Health, and Carol Warner, Chief Probation Officer for the Seventh Judicial District, which helps makes the organization effective.
“They do a lot because they represent a lot of people and lot of agencies,” she said. “I think this coalition is one of the most effective I’ve been involved in, and it helps that decisions makers sit at the table and don’t have to take it back to the boss.”