Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Boy, 11, knows well the horror meth addiction wreaks on kids

By Alexis Huicochea
arizona daily star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 10.27.2006

When Frankie Santa Cruz was 5 years old, he wasn't busy running around in the backyard, watching cartoons or playing with cars. He was changing diapers, making bottles and taking care of his two baby brothers and sister because his parents were too strung out on meth to care about anything else.
Now Frankie is 11 and life couldn't be any better. His parents celebrated three years of sobriety in September, he has perfect attendance in school, and he has his own bedroom with a bed and a television.
On Thursday, Frankie spoke publicly about what it was like to live with his meth-addicted parents as part of an event sponsored by the Meth Free Alliance to address the impact of the drug on children.
Other speakers included Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup, Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias and Anthony Coulson, assistant special-agent-in-charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration's Tucson office.
Children who live in homes where methamphetamine is used or manufactured are exposed to domestic violence, severe physical and emotional neglect, and physical and sexual abuse.
Last year, nearly 1,500 children in Pima County came into the dependency system, according to the Pima County Juvenile Court. Nearly 70 percent of those cases were the result of child abuse or neglect due to parental substance abuse. Forty percent of those cases involved meth.
In 2003, Frankie and his four siblings — Aleq, 6; Zaaron, 5; Zaq, 3; and 9-year-old Aerica — were removed from their parents' care by Child Protective Services for one year.
Being taken away from their home was a relief, Frankie said.
"It was not a good place to live," the Butterfield Elementary fifth-grader said.
"We had bedrooms without any beds because the dirty laundry was everywhere. We'd have to sleep wherever our little bodies could fit."
He recalls how his parents spent most of their time in the bathroom, leaving him to feed, clothe and care for his brothers and sister.
If they weren't in the bathroom, they were sleeping or spending hours looking out of the window or a peep hole convinced that the police were coming, Frankie said.
"I remember one day my mom was too paranoid to leave the house and drive me to school, so she woke me up in the middle of the night and told me that I was sick to my stomach and I had a major accident in my bed, so I couldn't go … and I believed her," Frankie said.
As a result of his parents' addiction, he often missed school or was tardy, he said.
Frankie said he has learned a lot about the dangers of drugs from living with his once-meth-addicted parents.
"I know not to do drugs, not to even get close to them or involved with them because they are really bad for you," he said.
He hopes to tell other kids about his experience so they will say no to drugs, too.
Attorney General Goddard said it is kids like Frankie who will lead to the eradication of meth in the future.
"Methamphetamine is a continuing problem," he said. "It's a killer; on the streets they call it a soul robber because it changes people so profoundly and it's not in a good way.
"If we get young people and their parents engaged in the fight against meth, we are going to make progress."
Goddard and Coulson of the DEA noted progress has already been made in Tucson through many efforts including:
● Legislation that requires that pseudoephedrine be placed behind the counter.
● Working with the Mexican government to reduce the importation of pseudoephedrine into the United States.
● The formation of the Meth Free Alliance, which aims to tackle key issues in prevention, treatment, legislation, law enforcement, research and community mobilization.
"In spite of all of the progress that has been made, we still have a long way to go," Goddard said.
● Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at 629-9412 or ahuicochea@azstarnet.com.

Napolitano unveils new weapons in fight vs. meth

Tucson Citizen

Gov. Janet Napolitano is calling for a crackdown on cross-border methamphetamine traffic and an expansion of addiction treatment to combat the growing threat to public health and safety caused by the illegal drug.
At a news conference this afternoon, the governor presented the recommendations of the Arizona Methamphetamine Task Force she appointed in August. The 32-member task force was chaired by Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall.
The recommendations include increasing prevention efforts by funding local community organizations such as Tucson's Meth Free Alliance and requiring in some cases new laws and action by the state Legislature.
Last fiscal year, 60 percent of the methamphetamine seized by federal agencies was found at ports along Arizona's border with Mexico.
Michael Johnson, a 36-year-old recovering meth addict here, said low-grade meth from Mexico is a lot easier to find now that the sale of pseudoephedrine, a chemical used to make meth, has been restricted here.
"It's just like water now," said Johnson, who has been in treatment at Compass Health Care since March.
The task force recommends increased coordination among state, local and federal law enforcement agencies to crack down on the smuggling of the dangerous drug.
The treatment program operated here by Compass Health Care and La Frontera Center was recognized by the Arizona Department of Health Services as a Best Practices Center for Excellence and by the White House drug policy office as "unique in the country."
Johnson's mom bonded him out of jail so he could go into treatment. He said he is facing a 15-year sentence for a methamphetamine possession conviction and he's worried that he won't get the treatment he needs in prison.
Napolitano's task force calls for more rural and tribal treatment programs and calls on the state Legislature to fund expanding Arizona's treatment network.
Danny Soatikee, a member of the Gila River Tribe, is another recovering addict seeking treatment at the Compass's New Directions treatment facility near Dodge Boulevard and Glenn Street.
The 42-year-old sold his house in Casa Grande and drove to Tucson to enroll in a treatment program. The tribe is in the process of building a facility, but Soatikee said the options are limited until then.
"My whole life was centered on getting high," he said. "I remember hitting the pipe, tears coming out of my eyes, telling myself that this is not good and not being able to stop.
"I didn't know how to get help other than getting to the emergency room," Soatikee said. "When people hurt, get them in (treatment), because they change their minds seconds later."
Cynthia Klein, director of community relations for Compass, said funding will be one of the largest challenges that Napolitano's plan will face.
"If we can pay for it, if there was unlimited funding, we could really make great strides in treating all sorts of addictions," she said. "We need a lot of funding. So many people don't have the resources to pay for the treatment.
"Most people that need treatment don't realize that they need treatment," Klein added. "What we need is the ability to intervene with these people and get them into treatment."
Meth-related admissions into Arizona hospitals tripled from 2000 to 2005, according to the task force.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, methamphetamine was responsible for 10.5 percent of the admissions into treatment facilities statewide in 2005.
Alcohol accounted for 10 percent of the admissions and alcohol with another drug accounted for 9.3 percent. Marijuana admissions accounted for 8.4 percent.
But treatment is just the first step for Soatikee, who says he can't say he will never do meth again.
"Methamphetamine has destroyed my whole life, and the sick part is that I still like it," Soatikee said. "I don't trust myself, my own thinking, and that's a good thing because I need to surround myself with recovery.
"I have a healthy fear now of losing what I have. I was pretty sick and I don't want to go back to that. I have choices in my life now.
"There are a lot of sayings and slogans in (Narcotics Anonymous). The most important one is 'One day at a time.'"

Mom files wrongful death claim against CPS

Melissa Blasius
12 News
Aug. 16, 2007 05:26 PM
Six months after the body of her four-year-old daughter was found inside a Tucson storage locker, Jamie Hallam has filed a multi-million-dollar wrongful death claim. This week, the Notice of Claim was served on the State of Arizona, Child Protective Services, the Tucson Police Department and the City of Tucson.

Hallam's ex-husband faces criminal charges in the deaths of daughter, Ariana, and 5-year-old son, Tyler. Tyler's body has never been found.

The Notice of Claim asks for a $6-million-dollar settlement in the death of each child. It claims CPS and Tucson police made mistakes and broke policy when they last interacted with the children.

In March 2006, Hallam asked for police assistance to retrieve her children from their father's home. According to CPS records, a child neglect case against Hallum had been unsubstantiated and closed several days earlier. Hallum presented the officers with a Divorce Decree saying she had sole custody of the children. However, of the CPS caseworker and a supervisor advised the officers to ignore the divorce court order. The children were left with their dad. After that date, CPS never checked the children's welfare.

Last month, CPS officials told 12 News they support the case worker's decision. They say the mother had voluntarily left the children with their father for several weeks before the police involvement. While there were allegations of domestic violence between mother and father, CPS managers explain they never received any child abuse allegations against the dad.