Methamphetamine Use, Production on Rise in Northeastern Rural Colorado and Cost Rural Communities Thousands

A study released today shows that the use and production of methamphetamine drugs – and the related costs to rural Colorado — are on the rise in many communities in Northeastern Colorado.

The study, conducted by Colorado State University Cooperative Extension and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, shows that government agency costs related to addressing methamphetamine-related problems increased almost $1 million from 1999 to 2001. The study focused on Kit Carson, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington and Yuma counties, an 11,432-square-mile agricultural-dependent area with a population of 77,680. The average per capita income per county ranges from $23,216 to $28,261.

"Rural areas have become a target for methamphetamine labs because chemicals necessary for its production, such as those in fertilizers, are readily available in farming communities. The labs can be located in isolated areas which helps manufacturers hide the associated traffic and the manufacturing process," said Lilias Jarding, Colorado State Cooperative Extension community development specialist. "The monetary costs to these counties – not to mention the emotional costs or the loss of human potential to drugs – are significant and relatively new."

The study, conducted for a team called "Finding a Solution Task Force," looked at costs incurred by agencies associated with drug use that were traced back to methamphetamine use or production. These expenses involved child abuse and neglect, substance abuse, mental health, family violence, emergency health services, law enforcement, court costs, fire damage and control and property damage. Agency officials estimate that direct costs increased 31 percent and indirect costs rose 94 percent from 1999 to 2001.

The problem also is compounded because most rural areas lack the drug treatment options available in metropolitan communities, and rural communities have a difficult time attracting and keeping counselors. Major highways within the area of the study provide easy access to metropolitan communities and the isolated locations help manufactures hide the smell of methamphetamine production.

"This study provides a useful starting point for the task force," said Trisha Bentz, Colorado State graduate student. "This information will help the task force address the problem by finding existing resources, increasing chemical dependency treatment options, looking into developing a drug court in the region, finding funding to deal with the impacts of methamphetamine use and manufacture, and working to increase public education about this drug in rural areas."

Experts within the community cite increased rates of child abuse and neglect, psychotic episodes, violence, work and school absenteeism, unemployment, fraud and financial problems.

The study measured 24 variables and received a 26 percent return rate. The agencies contacted include law enforcement, high schools, professionals, attorneys, health care providers, hazardous materials teams and social service agencies.

The area surveyed is the 13th Judicial District. Towns in the district with populations more than 2,000 are Fort Morgan, Brush, Sterling, Burlington, Holyoke, Yuma and Wray.

The task force includes members of the Department of Human Services in all seven counties survived; U.S. Sen. Allard’s office; 13th judicial district; Morgan County sheriff’s office; Prairie Land Recovery and Counseling Center; Platte River Counseling; Centennial Mental Health Center; Fort Morgan Times; Logan County Department of Social Services; Behavioral Interventions; Fort Morgan police department; concerned citizens and private therapists.