Meth in Hancock: Into the System
By Geoff Belcher
Dec 13, 2013, 20:33
This is the second installment of a three-part series examining the effects of methamphetamine addiction on Hancock County, its people and economy. Part one is available here: http://www.seacoastecho.com/article_7524.shtml#.UqvBu0ZjjsI.
Christie, a 42-year-old single mother from Bayside Park who has for years struggled with a crippling addiction to crystal methamphetamine, on Monday had her worst fears realized she will now likely spend the next three years in prison.
"I have had drug problems all my life, since I was a young girl," Christie told Judge Roger Clark as she entered an open plea in Hancock Circuit Court Monday. "It's taken everything I have. ... The highest consequences were having my daughter taken away."
Christie told Clark that despite her problems, she had sought to help others by starting a support group for crystal meth addicts in Hancock County; and by working with experts and the Gulf Coast Substance Abuse Task Force to create new and expand existing resources for addicts in the county.
"I'm not done yet," Christie said with tears rolling down her cheeks. "Nobody's going to keep working on this if I go away."
Christie's former fiancee also made an emotional plea on her behalf, imploring Clark to show leniency. He related how abuse by a family member in her early years helped drive her to drugs and cited her decency and loving nature, as well as her struggle with bipolar disease.
"It wouldn't be fair for you to sentence her without seeing the whole picture," he said.
"Obviously, you want to do right," Clark told Christie before passing sentence, "but the legislature has passed laws that I have to follow."
At the recommendation of the District Attorney's office, Clark sentenced Christie to 10 years in prison, suspending seven, leaving three to serve. He also decreed that she must undergo long-term substance abuse counseling while in prison and observe five years of supervised probation once she is released.
Treating the disease
Hancock Assistant District Attorney Chris Daniel said he sympathizes with people who suffer from addictions, but believes the corrections system is the only place many of them are likely to get the treatment they need.
Christie had a long-term addiction, with two separate possession charges, and a previous conviction for possession in Louisiana.
"Meth destroys lives and families," Daniel said. "Therefore, the system seeks stiff penalties for those who sell or cook meth."
"Conversely, first-time offenders charged with just possession of small amounts of drugs or with property crimes whose criminal activity is caused by drug addiction, are often placed in Drug Court. This is an intensive rehabilitation-based program focused on assisting addicts in becoming productive citizens again."
"We have over 300 kids in foster care in Hancock County," Sheriff Ricky Adam said. "I think it's safe to say that three-quarters of them have something to do with meth."
Meth arrests are actually down, Adam said, due in part to the Mississippi Legislature making it a crime to acquire or possess pseudophedrine one of the key ingredients in meth without a prescription.
"The meth-cooking has actually slowed down," Adam said, "but at the same time, they find other things to smoke when the meth isn't available.
"They've been getting the 'ice' out of Mexico. It's another chapter and it's terrible."
Addiction to methamphetamine leads to many other problems, Adam said, because many times, the users break other laws in order to feed their addictions.
"They're stealing to pay for their habits," he said. "We have a criminal investigation division and a narcotics division, and we've found out that many times they're both chasing down the same characters."
Despite common perception, Adam said, there are no state or federal grants to help fund interdiction efforts in Hancock County. The entire cost is borne by Hancock County taxpayers.
"The Drug Court has had a tremendous success rate and has seen a very low amount of recidivism since it was created less than ten years ago," Daniel said. "Participation in the program requires the agreement of the arresting officer and victim, in the case of property crimes.
"Drug court is working," Adam said, "but getting the qualified people to go to it is not always easy.
"Some of these folks have been using so long, even drug court won't help them. They just need good, hard rehab. If they've been using for 10 years and just get caught one time, drug court's too late for them.
"Most of them are re-offending. We don't have enough rehabs and no state rehab.
Most of these folks can't afford rehab on their own.
Pastor Rodney Williams, a meth addict himself and author of the book "Club Meth to Christ," said last week that 90 days at the House of Grace rehabilitation Clinic in Vancleave helped him kick the habit, but at a cost of about $6,000.
The family suffers
Even if a meth addict is lucky enough to get counseling and treatment without going to prison, there are virtually no resources for their families.
"There's no resources for family members," Lynn, a 52-year-old mother of three, said this week. "Once your child or anybody gets on meth, the whole family might as well be on math, because you're on a roller coaster. There's no resources for the family. There's no kind of support group.
""We've been on this nightmare since 2008. My daughter's grown, she's an adult, so we've had the children with DHS and the whole nine yards."
Lynn's daughter was a model citizen before her addiction to meth, she said.
Now, however, "She lies and she steals," Lynn said. "I can't believe anything she tells me, at all. She's stolen money from me, she's stolen property -- she's just completely opposite from where she was before the drugs. Just a totally different child."
Lynn's daughter is now awaiting sentencing in Louisiana. Lynn said she's happy, because she's at least going to get the treatment she needs.
"I'm able to get a good night's sleep now because at least I know she's not going to get high on drugs and wind up dead in a ditch somewhere," Lynn said. "We got to the point where it was going to be one or the other, and I don't want to bury my daughter."
Next week: Getting help
If you or someone you know is addicted to methamphetamine, there are resources available on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A full listing is available at gcdrugfree.org, hosted by the Gulf Coast Substance Abuse Task Force. You can also reach out to Rodney Williams at ClubMethtoChrist.com.