Neighbors pledge to help law enforcement wipe out meth

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Reporter - Lauren Adams
Photojournalist - Chad Darnall

MASSAC COUNTY, Ill. — Not too long ago, Natalie Quint, who works at Massac County Mental Health, got a phone call she just could not shake.

"An adolescent didn't want to go home," she said. "He said his parents were making meth in the home."

It was literally a wake-up call. As a mother and a mental health worker, Quint knew something had to be done.

That's when she began the Massac County Meth Coalition.

"I have two little boys and I didn't want them growing up in a community infested with methamphetamines."

She said law enforcement are doing a great job but it does not help that the county is dealing with a true budget crisis. At the sheriff's department, there are fewer dollars and fewer deputies.

In fact, in the last few years, the 13-man department has been reduced to 11.

Sheriff Ted Holder was more than willing to help.

"We've been battling this for two years," he said.

He admits the problem is only getting worse.

In 2010, the department recovered 10 labs. In 2011, they recovered 22 labs, totaling 12 pounds of meth.

At the jail, there are 42 beds and as of Thursday morning, there were 51 inmates.

"Almost everybody in our jail is here because of drugs, whether they're buying it, selling it, using it, committing crimes to get drugs," Holder said. "Its all drug-related."

He said meth is a drug that is not going anywhere.

Instead of the shake and bake labs, users are now shooting up.

"You get a better high when you inject it," he said. "That's why everywhere we go, we're finding needles."

Holder isn't the only one finding needles.

"I met with administrators with the school last week and they had a needle on the playground," Quint said.

To date, Quint's group has spoken at several civic organizations and been a presence at community events, including the Superman Celebration.

She said the group, which has gone from five members to about 15, is not going anywhere.

"We want to make the community aware and get the community involved."

That's good news for Holder.

"I really think its going to work," he said.

Next up for the coalition: going to schools in the fall. Quint said the group will arrange speakers and hand out pamphlets and coloring books, anything to get the attention of children. The hope is if children are educated, meth will not be a problem for the next generation.

The Massac Meth Coalition next meets June 28 at 9:30 a.m. The meeting is open to the public and will be at the Massac County Mental Health building, located on West 5th Street across from the courthouse.

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