DEATH * BY * METH

This is dedicated to Travis Holappa who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered on July 25, 2004 in Northern Minnesota. This was all due to meth. I am Travis' mother and I wish to make this devastation turn into a better thing by educating and exposing the truth about meth, the dangers, and the deadly consequences it brings about to individuals and communities.

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Location: Colorado, United States

I want to do what I can to educate people about what is going on around the world with the meth problem. I want people to know about it BEFORE they even get the idea to want to try it. It is a dangerous drug and will ruin your life as well as all those who love you. I am on a mission on behalf of my only son, Travis.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Healing Helpers fighting meth use in Deep East Texas

By EMILY TARAVELLA, The Daily Sentinel

Over the past year or so, Melanie Richmond has seen first-hand how methamphetamine destroys lives.

"I have a high school classmate who is now in prison because of meth," she said. "A member of our extended family has been affected by it, and two children in our community have died in cases that involved meth."

Richmond, a Nacogdoches resident, started to wonder when people would wake up to the problem that is "right here in our own back yard." Then, she started wondering what she could do to wake people up.

Richmond, a massage therapist by trade, said she knew nothing about methamphetamine. But she had developed a passion for addressing this problem, because she had witnessed first-hand the havoc that it wreaks in people's lives.

"I went to a Mothers Against Meth Web site," she said. "But that organization focuses primarily on the drug, and I wanted to focus on the drug-endangered child – the innocent children who are affected by the use of meth in the home."

Richmond was eventually contacted by an organization called "Healing Helpers," and she immediately set to work to establish a chapter of the organization in Deep East Texas. She started the group in December 2005, and last month a conference was held to educate the community about the dangers of meth.

Richmond said about 50 people attended the conference, and she hopes next year's will be even bigger and better. She is also hoping to get a foot in the door at local schools, so she can work with students to make them aware of the incredible dangers associated with meth.

"We're also trying to get this issue on the legislative agenda," she said. "We want them to give Child Protective Services the capability to do more for these children. Too often, the case workers' hands are tied."

The Legislature made strides in the fight against meth when they limited the amount of ephedrine a shopper can purchase at one time. Ephedrine, found in many cold medicines, is one of the main ingredients in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

As far as Richmond is concerned, prevention is the key.

"Treating someone who is hooked on meth isn't like treating someone who is hooked on other types of drugs," she said. "They recommend 18 to 24 months of residential treatment. Even that yields only a 50-percent success rate."

As hard as it is to recover from an addiction to methamphetamine, Richmond said she has heard from former addicts that it can be done. And those former addicts applaud her efforts to increase prevention efforts in Nacogdoches.

"They don't know what will happen to them the first time they use it," she said. "They think they can do it once, and not get addicted."

But the sense of euphoria and energy and the insatiable urges created by meth use, are what keep the addicts going back for more, she said.

The insatiable urges are one of the most dangerous side effects of the drug, she said. Richmond has collected news stories from across the nation, detailing the horrendous things that people have done while under the influence of methamphetamine. She has read the stories and relayed them to others so often, she is now quite familiar with details of dismemberments, beheadings, stabbings, shootings and sexual assaults. In some of the most tragic cases, those under the influence of meth have committed some of these offenses against their own children.

Those are the cases that have driven Richmond to fulfill her personal mission to fight the growing problem of meth use in East Texas.

"At this point, we're still trying to figure out where we fit in," she said. "We're working with Nacogdoches Safe and Drug Free, and we're open to suggestions from the community. We want to serve and educate wherever we can make the most impact."

For information about Healing Helpers, visit www.healinghelpers.org, or call 552-9047.

Emily Taravella's e-mail address is etaravella@coxnews.com.

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