SUPERVISOR DIANNE JACOB
DATE: May 7, 2004
CONTACT STEVE SCHMIDT AT 619-531-4766 or 619-206-9108
FORMER METH MOMS GET SECOND CHANCE WITH COUNTY DRUG-TREATMENT PROGRAMS
Women addicted to methamphetamine face an array of problems often including domestic violence, no education and work skills and unstable living environments. This coupled with having children to care for creates an even more tumultuous situation. While treatment is available to overcome their addiction, their options are limited as 67 percent of women in treatment for meth are mothers and require childcare.
Programs are available in San Diego County for women addicted to meth to get help. The McAlister Institute in East County offers long-term residential programs for women and their children. Tobie Hill, a 30-year-old mother of three, knows firsthand about the devastating effects meth addiction brings to a family. After seven years as a meth addict and with the help of her own mother, Tobie sought help.
"When I finally decided to get treatment, I tried to explain to my kids about my problems," she said. "Fear and panic came to my kids' faces." After 10 days in dextox at McAlister, she returned to her kids who were hurt, angry and scared. "My son, Kyle, was afraid of me, and wouldn't talk to me for the first 24 hours," Tobie said. "The second 24 hours, he wouldn't leave my lap. I told him I would never leave them again." They had a reason to be angry, she said: "I caused it and I have to deal with the consequences."
In San Diego County, officials are aware of the meth problem and its
grip on women. In her state of the County address, Board of
Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob indicated breaking the cycle of
meth addiction is one of her top priorities. Since 1996 with the
creation of the Meth Strike Force, Jacob has sought ways to reduce the
presence of meth and meth labs in San Diego County, which was once
dubbed the "meth capital of the world."
"More than one-third of women who break the law in our County test positive for meth. Compared to other illicit drugs, meth has a choke-hold on women in our region," Jacob said in her State of the County address in February. "This year, we will work to break that choke-hold. I will join forces with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to explore the dangerous bond between meth and female lawbreakers. We will convene a summit and develop an arsenal of calculated ways to target meth-fueled crimes by women."
According to statistics from the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program, 47 percent of women arrested in San Diego County in 2002 tested positive for methamphetamine, compared with 37 percent of men. Also, meth abusing women do not have stable living environments and require residential services. Most meth-abusing women have marginal vocational skills requiring job-skill development and due to the abuse of meth, most women have severe cognitive impairment and require a longer episode of treatment.
"Meth is a serious issue for moms and their families, communities and community systems that surround them," said Paula Landau-Cox, acting director of the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, Alcohol and Drug Services. In 2003, 6,410 persons with a primary meth problem received treatment in the publicly funded treatment system- 40.6 percent of these were women. In 2002-2003, treatment services related to methamphetamine cost the county $28.5 million, Landau-Cox said.
Today, the county of San Diego is recognizing women, and particularly mothers, who overcame their addiction to meth and reclaimed their lives. These women have the courage to change and create a new positive environment for their children. As they embrace their sober, drug-free life, their families are especially proud of their accomplishment. Since Tobie is sober, her 11-year-old daughter Maranda has improved her grades from F's to A's. Next year, Maranda will participate in the school AVID program, for students who have the potential for college, but are hampered by family history or circumstances.
"I'm so proud of her and she helps me stay sober each and every day," Tobie said.