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.

My Photo
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, October 23, 2006

Key to Making Meth Unusable (Ohio)

NH3 + Ca(NO3)2
Researchers in Iowa find that adding calcium nitrate to farm fertilizer makes a key meth ingredient unusable
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Kelly Hassett
Making meth harder to make

University researchers in Iowa have discovered a new ingredient that could make it tougher for methamphetamine cooks to concoct their illegal brew.

Researchers at Iowa State University announced last week that adding calcium nitrate to anhydrous ammonia neutralizes the reaction required to make methamphetamine. The highly addictive drug is manufactured in clandestine labs using the farm fertilizer, a common cold medicine and other household products.

Officials hope the discovery will not only curb meth production, but deter thieves from stealing anhydrous ammonia from farmers and farm-supply dealers. And agriculture and law-enforcement officials in Ohio and elsewhere are taking notice.

"If you’re a meth cook, it makes your job a whole lot harder," said Dale Woolery, associate director of the Iowa Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy.

Officials in Ohio, New York and several western states have already contacted counterparts in Iowa to find out more about the research.

State law-enforcement officials say stopping meth production is one of their top priorities, both because of the crime associated with its use and because of the danger involved in its production. Meth-lab raids in Ohio increased since 2000 from 36 to more than 400 last year, and the state has spent nearly $2 million just in the past two years to establish and run a law-enforcement unit to combat the illegal drug.

Some in law enforcement wonder if the additive, while possibly deterring thefts of anhydrous ammonia, would slow the production of the drug overall. And those in the farming and fertilizer industries are concerned about the cost.

Anhydrous ammonia generally costs farmers about $45 per acre, said Jerry Ward, president of OHIGRO, a retail farm-supply business in Waldo.

Calcium nitrate would tack on at least another $1 an acre to farmers’ fertilizer bill, and many farmers work thousands of acres.

"That adds up," Ward said.

Farm suppliers and members of the Ohio AgriBusiness Association had been waiting for the results of Iowa State’s research, said Brian Peach, secretary-treasurer.

They want more information about how the calcium nitrate would be marketed, at what level in the distribution process the chemical would be added and whether it really reduces anhydrous-ammonia thefts, Peach said.

"We’ve tried numerous methods, but nothing was really deterring them," he added.

The anhydrous-ammonia tanks at Blanchard Valley Farmers Co-op in Findlay have been broken into several times in the past few years, said risk coordinator Joe Hochstettler.

The co-op added tank locks, surveillance cameras and chain-link fences before the number of thefts dropped, he said.

Although Hochstettler said the calcium nitrate formula seems more promising than GloTell, a chemical that makes ammonia glow pink and stains meth users’ hands, he wonders how the added cost would affect competition.

"Unless it became law, not everybody would do it," Hochstettler said. "We’d be giving away $1 an acre to do the right thing."

State lawmakers already have moved to make it harder to produce meth.

A law restricting sales of pseudoephedrine took effect in May and is credited, at least in part, for the drop in the number of meth labs and waste sites discovered, from 444 in 2005 to 243 so far this year.

"The new law, it’s making it a lot harder for them," said Chuck Bell, special agent for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.

Bell predicted the calcium nitrate could also help, but acknowledged that meth addicts are constantly adapting their methods in response to new police tactics.

"We have a lot of people making their own anhydrous ammonia right now," Bell said. "If they want it bad enough, they’re going to find a way to do it."

Iowa is still fine-tuning its program, which is voluntary for agriculture suppliers and retailers. Officials don’t think it is necessary to treat every anhydrous-ammonia tank in the state with calcium nitrate, however, Woolery said.

"It’s a very fluid, flexible type of process," he said. "We think that there’ll be enough of it out there by spring that, for a meth cook, they might as well quit."

A growing problem (Utah)


CEDAR CITY - Contrary to what many people believe, teaching kids about drugs at a young age is perhaps better than letting them figure things out on their own.

"They're going to be exposed to it eventually in their life," said Iron County Schools Secondary Education Director Paul Maggio. "You have to acknowledge that it's there."

In addition to the DARE program, local schools are joining others in the country for the national Red Ribbon Week, which starts Monday.

Red Ribbon Week is designed to teach students, as young as elementary school, about drugs and how to say "no" before they learn the consequences from peers or through using themselves.

"The biggest thing is education," said Cedar City Police Sgt. Darin Adams. "That is so key."

Students in Iron County start learning about drugs when they are about 10 years old through the DARE program, but Adams thinks parents should talk to their kids before that.

However, many parents think that if they talk with their children about drugs at such a young age, they will be introducing bad habits really early in life.

"It's not gonna do that," Adams said. "I've never seen that happen."

The Cedar City Police Department has been teaching students about drugs as part of Red Ribbon Week for at least 10 years, and each time the program has been a success.

Coupled with skits, drug dog demonstrations and educational presentations, students learn the negative aspects of drugs before they have a chance to succumb to peer pressure.

"I think it's been received very well," Adams said. "Just awareness I think is huge."

Though it's not currently prevalent in schools, one drug that runs rampant throughout Iron County and the surrounding area and impacts many parents is methamphetamine.


Even though meth labs haven't been found in Iron County for a couple of years, it doesn't mean the drug is absent from the area.

"I think it's on the rise," Adams said.

Between the Iron County Sheriff's Office and the Cedar City and Enoch police departments, there have been roughly 70 to 80 meth-related arrests this year, he said.

And the Iron/Garfield Counties Narcotics Task Force, which is the main drug enforcement agency for the area and often targets dealers instead of users, made more than 140 meth-related arrests last year.

More than 90 percent of those were dealers, said Keith Millett, commander of the drug task force.

"If people knew really how much (meth) was out there, they'd be frightened," Millett said. "It's definitely the biggest threat to our society in this area."

While many other drugs, like heroine, create physical addictions, meth is different.

"What's scary about meth is it's a psychological addiction," Millett said. "So a lot of people get addicted to that feeling."

And the addiction comes fast.

"It's a pretty a bad deal, that meth, it just kinda tears you to pieces," said Clint, a former meth addict who has been clean for six years.

Clint, who didn't want his last name printed, started using meth when he was 14 and was hooked for 16 years.

"There's about three years I don't remember nothin'. I don't remember nothin,'" Clint said. "Meth runs your life. No matter what else is goin' on in your life, meth is what's gotcha. So that's what you chase, and that's what you go for."

Because of the chemical reaction between meth and the user's body, addicts experience extreme emotional highs and lows, often feel like they can do anything, and sometimes have an enhanced sexual sensation.

"I felt like I was on top of the world at first," Clint said. "Oh yeah, I could do anything."

And because of the extreme addiction, meth is hard to escape.

"It's the devil. There's no other way to put it. It's just pure evil," Adams said.

The path to prevention

Meth is often trafficked into Iron County from St. George. But that meth often comes from Las Vegas after originating in Mexico.

"The main problem is (that) we need to close off our borders," Millett said. "As long as people want it, it's gonna become available."

But the availability is something that shouldn't matter if people know the consequences of the drug up front, and that's where early education comes into play.

"If you choose to go with people that are doing it, then that's the route you're gonna go. If you choose to go with the kids that aren't, then that's the other route," Clint said.

"There's a fork in the road. You either go one way or the other. There's no down the middle. It's all about who you hang out with," he said.

Clint chose the wrong route, he said, and suffered the consequences. After serving a year in jail for dealing meth, he straightened up his life.

"I don't remember the first couple months of being locked up," he said, because his addiction took such a toll on his body.

But after six years of being drug-free, Clint has a family and owns a local business.

"It takes time to dig your way out of it, but I have," he said. "It's either prison, death or life. I chose life."

Play Nice: Hern and Laurance avoid personal attacks, negativity during campaign (Oregon)


Dan Hern bought a wealth of name recognition in the May primary. The former Roseburg city councilor spent more than $185,000 to defeat Douglas County Commissioner Dan Van Slyke in the Republican primary.

Democratic nominee Joe Laurance, on the other hand, spent just over $4,500 in his primary race against Harry McDermott and Neil DeVaughn.

Comparing financial tally sheets, it might be easy to assume as ballots for the Nov. 7 election went out Friday that Hern holds a big edge. However, Laurance doesn't see himself scrambling to play catch-up.

He said the primary race garnered a lot of attention for both parties -- more than any other race that he can remember. Laurance said residents educated themselves on the candidates and that they're quite aware of both him and Hern. He sees the playing field as being level, which he said both surprises and pleases him.

"The advantage that I am having is that people are talking about me, person to person," Laurance, 56, said. "First-person testimony is worth more than any amount of money. And I think that my success to date is people who know me or know my family or have followed this race closely and have talked to friends and family about me. What a wonderful thing. And that's the kind of thing that you simply can't buy."

At times during the primary, it appeared Van Slyke was battling five opponents rather than just Hern and Eric Ohlsen from his own party. Most of the rhetoric from the other candidates was aimed at what they saw as shortcomings from the first-term commissioner.

Laurance focused on telling county residents who he was. He declined to speak negatively about Van Slyke and he's doing the same with Hern in his general election campaign. Hern, 68, is also focusing on his background and his views on issues.

Personalities have not entered the race. In fact, Hern and Laurance have been downright friendly with one another. After a recent economic development panel discussion that both men attended just to observe, Hern and Laurance stood outside chatting amicably long after the rest of the crowd had gone home.

"The race against Dan Van Slyke turned out to be a lot about personalities, things that had nothing to do with -- well, it had something to do with the way the county was being run. This is about two people who've never run the county before. This is about what are we going to do to keep this place a good place to live," Hern said.

Both said that before deciding who to vote for, county residents should look at their accomplishments.

Laurance said his work as an airport manager and operating his own small trucking company has given him a depth of public service and an understanding of the struggles of the working class. He is a member of a farming family whose roots in Douglas County go back generations.

"In the primary process, I had nothing negative to say about anybody. What I was trying to do was show people how I was the most qualified candidate for the job, regardless of party. And, indeed, I'm still doing that," Laurance said.

Hern points to his eight years on the Roseburg City Council, his career managing radio stations and working as the executive director of the Mercy Foundation as giving him the experience to become a county commissioner.

"I've had success in my business -- not that he hasn't -- but I've had very good success. One of the reasons that people want me to be elected is because they know I've had a successful career," Hern said.

At one time, Hern belonged to or served on the boards of nearly 30 community organizations. He is probably best known for his work as a charity auctioneer. He helped raise money for dozens of local nonprofits, including the United Way and the Winston Area Community Partnership and at events such as the Festival of Trees.

"My commitment to Douglas County goes way back," Hern said. "I didn't just start my commitment when I thought I was going to run for this office. I did it way, way back."

Both candidates see extension of the federal timber safety net and battling methamphetamine abuse as two of the county's top priorities.

"Every other problem, every other circumstance, every other issue is colored by these things," Laurance said.

Laurance and his wife, Ricci, raised three foster children whose parents were addicted to methamphetamine. The couple saw firsthand the devastating effects meth use had on those families.

"These are personal stories. It has made our involvement with this methamphetamine problem a very personal fight," Laurance said.

Hern served on an advisory committee set up when Douglas County Circuit Judge Robert Millikan established a local Drug Court 10 years ago. The program works to help people fight their addictions and keep them out of jail. Graduates have a very low rate of being arrested again.

Hern currently serves on two committees established by a task force working on the meth issue.

"I've very committed to fighting meth addiction," he said.

Douglas County faces the loss of $50 million annually if Congress doesn't extend the timber safety net. Payments have been made to more than 200 counties nationally for more than a decade to compensate them for losses in revenue from not being able to harvest trees in national forests.

Both candidates say the county would have to cut programs if the legislation, whose funding runs out at the end of the county's fiscal year next June, isn't reauthorized.

"We've got to get the safety net issue solved," Hern said.

He said the county needs to continue its efforts to bring about legislation to allow additional logging in forests. Doing so would increase revenues and allow the county to have less need for the safety net subsidy, he said.

If the safety net is lost, Laurance said he would introduce a plan to cut spending and keep the county operating without laying off employees by not replace retiring workers unless the position was critical. He would also advocate charging fees for non-essential services.

Because of the uncertain financial situation, Laurance said the county can't afford to construct the Milltown Hill Dam outside Yoncalla. Even with federal financial assistance for the project on Elk Creek, the county would have to chip in millions of dollars.

"That discussion becomes a moot point. We may need every dollar that the county can muster for simple survival after next June," Laurance said.

Hern wants to wait until a financial analysis is completed before deciding whether the dam should be shelved. If the estimates come out that it will cost more than $77 million to build the dam, the previous funding package from the federal Bureau of Reclamation would be withdrawn and it would seem impossible for the county to pay for the dam by itself.

During the primary, some of Van Slyke's supporters questioned Hern's qualifications after he spent several months in Mexico after retiring. Requirements state a candidate for commissioner must be a resident of the state for the 12 months before the election.

Hern, who defeated Van Slyke by 986 votes, said he kept ownership of his Roseburg home and maintained his voter registration, driver's license and car registration in Oregon. An assistant state attorney general concluded Hern was qualified to run.

Hern returned to Oregon after people upset with Van Slyke's leadership called him and asked him to run. Hern, who said he had grown tired of golf and other leisurely pursuits in Mexico and had planned to move back to Douglas County anyway, agreed.

Hern said he's surprised it continues to be raised.

"It's sour grapes and I'm sorry. I really am sorry because I don't want people to be mad at me or dislike me," he said. "I know this is a ploy by a few but it sure hurts your stomach when someone doesn't like you."

Both Hern and Laurance say they believe Van Slyke's supporters will play a crucial role in determining the outcome of the race.

Hern and Van Slyke have met three times since the primary ended, conversations both men describe as cordial. Van Slyke said he still feels Hern and his supporters distorted his record in office, but that he accepts the will of Douglas County residents to vote him out.

Despite encouragement by some, Van Slyke has declined to endorse Hern in the general election. However, he hasn't endorsed Laurance, either, something many of Van Slyke's supporters -- who took an anyone-but-Hern attitude after the primary loss -- have pushed him to do.

Van Slyke, who will leave office at the end of the year after serving four years, said he has spent the last few months of his term reaching out to people who criticized him during the campaign, looking for common ground.

"Giving an endorsement I think would just open that all up again and polarize people," Van Slyke said.

Like Hern, Laurance feels having the support of the 6,188 people who voted for Van Slyke in the primary could be key for determining who wins on Nov. 7.

"Naturally, I'll need their support," Laurance said. I'll need independents. I'll need a lot of timber folks to vote for me to be elected."

* You can reach reporter John Sowell at 957-4209 or by e-mail at

More meth-ring details emerge (Wyoming)

CHEYENNE - The investigation into an elaborate methamphetamine ring continues to unfold in Laramie County.

The U.S. Attorney's Office recently released the names of 21 individuals allegedly involved with the drug band.

Officials say the seemingly growing list of suspects began its trafficking of the psycho-stimulant back in June 2005.

Police officers and sheriff's deputies pulled over James "Sal" Sali on Jan. 20 for a routine traffic stop at Snyder Avenue and West Lincolnway.

Just when officers thought he was cooperating, Sali stomped on the gas pedal, leading them on a high-speed chase through streets in the west part of the city.

Sali fired shots at the officers, and they returned fire before Sali stopped and fled his vehicle at 353 Hynds Ave.

He then slipped into a crawlspace with a .38-caliber handgun, one ounce of methamphetamine and a leg wound. He has since been coined the leader of the meth ring in Cheyenne by local law enforcement officials.

It took officers four hours to lure Sali out of the home using teargas.

Police had been investigating Sali's home on Hynds Avenue for some time, watching its occupants and the people coming in and out.

He is being held on a $500,000 bond. He faces two charges of attempted first-degree murder.

Sali will be represented by attorney Michael H. Reese at a trial set for Dec. 4. His case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson.

On May 24, Sali made his first appearance in federal court, where he was indicted on charges of conspiring to get and sell methamphetamine.

He also was indicted for selling the extremely addictive drug within 1,000 feet of Alta Vista Elementary and conspiring to kill or hurt a person working for the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

Twenty other men and women have been indicted, with three in the last week alone, U.S. Attorney's Office public information officer John Powell said.

Sali's case was put on hold so he could undergo psychiatric evaluation, records show. He has seven counts pending against him to date.

They include interstate travel with intent to commit a crime of violence, retaliation against a witness/victim and conspiracy to retaliate against an informant.

Many others are waiting for trial dates or sentencing in both state and federal district courts. Their status is:

n Roy E. Miller pleaded guilty Friday to maintaining a place where methamphetamine is distributed and used. A sentencing date for Miller has not been recorded by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

n James D. Smith pleaded guilty Aug. 1 and was sentenced Friday on a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

n Terri C. Smith pleaded guilty Aug. 1 and was sentenced Friday on a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

n Tracey L. Arthur pleaded guilty July 1 and was sentenced Wednesday on a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

n Treasa L. Bliss pleaded guilty Aug. 1 and was sentenced Thursday on a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

n Julie A. McClintock pleaded guilty Aug. 1 and was sentenced Wednesday on a charge of maintaining a place where methamphetamine is distributed and used and for distribution of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a public school.

n Laura "Dallas" D. Tibbs pleaded guilty July 31 and was sentenced Tuesday on a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

n Deananne S. Dack pleaded guilty Sept. 22 on a charge of conspiracy to retaliate against an informant. Her sentencing date is Dec. 1.

n Kelly C. Kirkwood pleaded guilty in May on a charge of conspiring to kill or hurt anyone who tried to interrupt the operation. A sentencing date has not been set.

Those individuals awaiting a jury trial on Dec. 4 are:

n Crystal A. Olszewski

n Alfred E. Williams.

n Shane "Irish" M. Cox.

n Heather S. Grove.

n Catherine M. Sanchez.

Those individuals waiting for a sentencing date in the state's district court are:

n James "Jimmy" E. Ingersoll pleaded guilty Aug. 2 on a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. His sentencing date is scheduled for Monday.

n Traci R. Fournier pleaded guilty Aug. 1, and sentencing is slated for Wednesday. No information was available about the specific charges in this case.

n Garrett K. Schaible pleaded guilty Aug. 1, and sentencing is set for Monday. No information was available about the specific charges in this case.

n Heather L. Carr pleaded guilty Aug. 2 to a charge of maintaining a place where methamphetamine is distributed and used. Her sentencing date is scheduled for Nov. 3.

n Paul R. Fleet pleaded guilty Aug. 2 on a charge of maintaining a place where methamphetamine is distributed and used. His sentencing is set for Thursday.

n Jeannette DeHerrera pleaded guilty Sept. 26 on a charge of conspiracy to retaliate against an informant and conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. Her sentencing date has been scheduled for Dec. 4.

Tibbs was with Sali the day of the chase. The day before, records showed both Sali and Tibbs drove to Denver to pick up ounce-quantities of meth and brought it back to Cheyenne.

Ingersoll, who lives in Commerce City, Colo., allegedly supplied methamphetamine for distribution throughout Cheyenne and across northern Colorado.

According to Ingersoll's indictment, the Smiths, Sali, Fournier, Schaible, Olszewski, Carr and Tibbs traveled from Cheyenne to Denver.

The drug was processed, weighed and repackaged into smaller packages, Ingersoll's case file showed.

Police say Sali was DeHerrera's righthand man in her own cocaine operation. She was reported by officials to be the person renting the Hynds Avenue home.

Many court-related documents filed for several of the listed individuals have been sealed at the request of the courts.

The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation first reported early signs of the methamphetamine industry taking shape in 1999. In 1998, the DCI reported no knowledge of any meth labs in Cheyenne. By 1999, four were busted.

Investigation deeper into the meth ring continues with the help of DCI, the U.S. Attorney's Office, DEA and local law enforcement agencies.

Cops seek more money in meth fight - California

By Craig Koscho

Some of the most innocent victims of methamphetamine manufacture and use will get help from a new grant being pursued by the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department.

The Cal-Met state grant would provide the county with $295,000 to fund five positions - a sergeant and two deputies in the Sheriff’s Department, an officer for the Angels Camp Police Department, and a Child Protective Services worker.

Calaveras is one of many counties taking part in the statewide program.

Local officials are still working with the state to complete the application, Undersheriff Mike Walker said, and they hope to have an award ready for approval by the county Board of Supervisors within the next couple of weeks.

The first component of the program is finding and dismantling the methamphetamine laboratories and prosecuting the manufacturers, Walker said.

And then county workers will tackle the impact on the children who are frequently found at the homes of laboratories and dealers.

“It’s almost a majority of the time there’s going to be children in and out of the home,” Walker said.

“We’ve taken children out of those homes and had them medically tested and found a high level of components needed to make methamphetamine in their systems,” he added.

In these cases, the parents are charged with child endangerment.

The new program will provide even more support for the children, getting them removed from that environment and medically stable, Walker said.

Protecting the children of methamphetamine makers was high on the list of program items when Police Chief Tony Tacheira explained the program during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Angels Camp City Council.

“We’ve had kids playing in meth waste,” Tacheira said.

The $54,195 provided to his department from the Sheriff’s Department would cover eight months of salary and benefits for a new officer, Tacheira said.

Equipment and a vehicle are already available for that new position, he added.

Calaveras County is ranked eighth out of 58 counties for the number of drug laboratory seizures, Tacheira said.

Nationwide, 20 percent of the inmates in county jails are there for methamphetamine crimes. In Calaveras County, Tacheira said, the figure is 60 percent.

Narcotics use has an impact on just about every facet of society, Tacheira said, because it is the No. 1 reason for theft, burglary, assault, domestic violence and other crimes.

In the past few months there was a problem with possible narcotics waste being dumped into the city’s sewer system, compromising the treatment system at the processing plant, Tacheira said.

And in rural areas, there’s always the concern of drug waste being dumped in creeks and streams, he said.

After 18 months, the Legislature will review the program’s effectiveness statewide and determine if the funding should be renewed.

Local authorities believe the results will be dramatic enough to guarantee that.

“It’s anticipated this type of program will have a significant impact on the manufacture of methamphetamine in our area,” Walker said.

Contact Craig Koscho at

Mother Of Infant With Meth In System Charged - Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. -- A 26-year-old Glenwood Springs woman already convicted of possession of methamphetamines now is charged with child abuse because her newborn had the drug in its system.

Police detective Amy Roggie said Tishe Quintana apparently used the drug in the week before her baby girl was born. Her conviction was for use in September.

The baby, named Justice, is doing well and is in the care of Social Services. But Roggie said the child may experience problems later.

Quintana pleaded guilty last month to felony possession of meth with intent to distribute, and was being recommended for a deferred sentence.

She's now free on $15,000 bond, but is due back in court on the latest charges Nov. 16.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Gordon Coldagelli (Minnesota)

Gordon Coldagelli is a hero to my family because he boldly and successfully prosecuted the men who savagely killed my son because of a stupid drug called methamphetamine. Mr. Coldagelli is a man who is willing to do a difficult task simply because it is right: removing the criminal element off the streets of small town USA with the power of the law. He pulled together a truthful and winning case on behalf of Travis Holappa when everything looked so jumbled with the conflicting stories of meth addicts, liars, and dealers.

While observing “Gordy” over the months and years of this continuing trial and legal process, I consistently see him as a man with strong moral values and desirable character. He knows right from wrong. He knows the law. He knows his job and accomplishes it well. He cares about the moral and human decline that is taking place on the Iron Range and in Minnesota.

What he did for our family, and for the memory of my son is so meaningful to me that I want to thank him publicly. I recently learned he is running for the Judgeship position in Hibbing, District 5 and I whole heartedly support him in his work to purge my old home of meth and meth-related crime. I know the evil this drug can bring to a community, because it came to my son Travis and took him from us.

I would encourage anyone who has questions about meth abuse or recovery to start by contacting There are also updates regarding “meth news” around the world on my blog,

Drug Court Started - Minnesota

Drug Court started
Program to help users stay or become substance-free
Charles Ramsay
Mesabi Daily News
Thursday, October 19th, 2006 10:58:05 PM

VIRGINIA — The Iron Range’s Drug Court is now open.

Although it may take a few more weeks for the first cases to come through, Oct. 1 marked the first date persons will be considered to take part in the court program. Judges and staffers went through training earlier this year.

The Drug Court will work with low-level, non-violent persons with addictive situations who have been convicted, to work through a program including weekly court and other visits to become and stay free of methamphetamine use and other drugs.

The Duluth Drug Court in operation for four years has “had great success in making a difference in people’s lives,’’ Sixth Judicial District Court Judge James Florey told an audience of social services, law, legal, and counselor staffers who have worked to bring the Virginia-based program into being. The program was formally announced Thursday.

Story Continues Below

Judge Gary Pagliaccetti said a visit to the Duluth Drug Court convinced him it was workable. A lot of people have worked on the Virginia project to get it started, but “this court program cannot work and will not work without the cooperation’’ of everyone, he added, praising Florey for his leadership in starting the program.

Both judges will be devoting some of Thursday afternoons to the court, which officials said is expected to average about 40 participants from across the Iron Range.

David Nyquist, chief probation officer for Arrowhead Regional Corrections, said afterward the Duluth Drug Court has served 126 participants, of which 66 have successfully completed the program and 21 were cut from it for continuing to violate terms. Weekly court visits, random or daily checks with staffers for participants are what “truly keeps them from using,’’ he said.

ARC Director Tom Roy added that with the Duluth Drug Court, “our recidivism rate is extremely low,’’ with only one person committing a felony after going through the program.

St. Louis County Alan Mitchell told listeners a major reason for big increases in criminal court cases “has been the proliferation of drugs in St. Louis County.’’ More cases in the north like what Duluth was handling helped him to seek “similar services on the Iron Range,’’ he said.

Low-level, non-violent drug users with addiction issues can get more help from different agencies through the court, while taking some stress off law enforcement, prison and other services providers.

“It’s an alternative,’’ Mitchell explained, with the end result expected that participants “will become productive citizens again.’’

St. Louis County Commissioner Keith Nelson, who chaired the conference, introduced U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., as helping get the court funding through, and described him as “a champion on methamphetamine.’’

Oberstar described how the process went through two applications being rejected, before the Virginia Drug Court was approved by the U.S. Department of Justice for a $250,000 grant for its first two years of operation.

Funding for drug courts nationwide was at a maximum of $50 million in 2002, and was down to $10 million this past federal fiscal year. Requests for funding for drug courts nationwide next year are at $65.5 million, he added.

The Virginia court funding was “one of the larger grants approved,’’ he said.

In meeting with county judges and other officials in his district, Oberstar said he learned that 91 percent of criminal arrests in Pine County and 94 percent of arrests in Isanti County were meth-related.

Besides dental care costs and psychological costs, in numerous cases, officials related to him, persons using meth asked to be arrested “to protect themselves from themselves,’’ Oberstar said.

The drug court approach will involve many agencies and providers in a unified treatment, as “local governments can’t do this on their own,’’ he added.

St. Louis County Commissioner Mike Forsman, who is on the county’s subcommittee on meth, noted the benefits to residents of the program, beyond treatment. A dollar spent for a person at a substance abuse treatment facility can keep away $12 spent in police, court, social services, counseling and other following services. “This is about prevention,’’ he said.


Pat Grahek, clinical supervisor at the Arrowhead Center in Virginia, which counsels chemical dependence and other users on the Range, explained that the post-conviction drug court will change from a more traditional probationary involvement in intensity, involvement and locale for a participant to weekly sessions in court. Home visits by staffers may be done also.

Goals may be set, such as getting a general equivalency diploma, a job, or mental and physical health issues, as well as counseling.

A lot of times, drug users “act under emotion, not on thinking a situation through,’’ Grahek said.

Drug checks 3-4 times a week for meth use can help participants stay clean, while counseling and weekly drug court sessions can help keep them involved, he said. “It provides a structured environment that drug addicts need.’’

The meth onslaught has affected more rural areas, and in 24 years as a counselor, “it’s exploded all over,’’ Grahek said. “I’ve never seen it as bad.’’

Working with persons with alcohol situations, some with 25-year addictions, is more common; he doesn’t see 25-year meth addicts, as “they die or something else happens,’’ he said.

Grahek said he was a substance abuser himself years ago, and could have spent the rest of his life in hospitals, emergency rooms or treatment centers, but for the last 25 years, “I’ve been a productive taxpayer,’’ helping others with dependency issues.

One positive aspect for officials is seeing little steps made on the road to recovery. Occasions where fellow participants, on learning a defendant has stayed drug-free for 30 days, are ones “that are celebrated,’’ Nyquist said.

While law officers and court persons may see repeaters back in the system, for a counselor, Grahek said, “I get to see the people that make it.’’