Report says Sonoma County is meth distribution hub
By James Lanaras, Bay City News Service
July 25, 2006
SANTA ROSA (BCN) - The rate of methamphetamine use in
Sonoma County exceeds the national rate and the county has become
a hub for trafficking the drug to other counties and the Western
states, according to a report compiled by the county's Department
of Health Services.
The report, requested by Supervisor Valerie Brown in March, was
presented to the full board this morning. It estimates that more
than 4,800 of the county's 478,400 residents aged 12 and over
are likely to have used methamphetamine in the past year and that
as many as 2,400 residents are likely to have used it in the last
Sonoma County Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Bertoli told the board the
highly addictive drug became a problem in the county in the early
1990s and undercover narcotics agents were purchasing it for $4,000
to $5,000 a pound to get it off the street. The drug currently
sells for $8,000 a pound and crystal methamphetamine is commanding
as much as $10,000 a pound.
Bertoli said Sonoma County is well known as a distribution hub
for the drug, which has come from Mexico and the Central Valley
since local production of methamphetamine was curtailed in the
late 1990s. The department still raids four or five local meth
labs annually, according to the report.
Bertoli said there has been a spike of meth-related crimes such
as burglaries and identity theft in the past four years.
Carol Bauer, director of the county's Family, Youth and Child
Services Department, said the county's Child Protective Services
is experiencing a growing number of cases related to methamphetamine
"It seems to be getting worse,'' she said. Supervisor Brown
said the addiction rate is 47 percent after first time use and
60 percent after second use and that 71 percent of cases in the
county's drug court are related to methamphetamine. She estimated
the county spends $20 million annually in meth-related court and
"We are not alone. Every county is experiencing this beyond
belief,'' Brown said.
There are a lot of statistics in the report, but two former methamphetamine
users put a human face on the drug regarded as a scourge nationwide.
Aldona Dement said she started using methamphetamine at 18 and
continued for 20 years. She was arrested for burglary in 2001
and decided she needed a strict recovery program. Her treatment
through the drug court lasted 19 months and she has been clean
for more than four years, she said.
Now the mother of a 17-month-old child, she is attending school
to become a drug and alcohol abuse counselor and takes simple
pleasure in having her own apartment, a car, driver's license
and checking account.
Dennis Woodson said he first used methamphetamine at 19, stayed
awake for two days and slept for two days in his vehicle. He said
he was arrested 12 times, went to jail eight times and wanted
to quit but his body wouldn't let him. His weight dropped to 159
"I was pale and pock (mark) faced. You didn't see me in
the daytime. I was out driving at 3 a.m., up to no good,'' Woodson
He quit using meth at 31 and he said the drug court treatment
program saved his life.
"It instilled discipline. There was no room to be lazy and
not do what you were supposed to do," he said.
Jail "was the best thing that ever happened to me,'' he
said. He too is attending school and now weighs 240 pounds.
The good news in the report is that treatment works, Sonoma County
Public Defender John Abrahams said.
Some 60 percent of former methamphetamine users stay drug and
crime free in the two years following treatment, he said.
Brown said that while she believes the county has to increase
support services, it's clear law enforcement and the drug court
help keep methamphetamine users in the recovery process.
"We can't deal with this on a department by department basis,''
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