The social consequences of Jefferson County's meth problem are dire, says Circuit Court Judge Darrell Missey, who presides over family court. "I look at my job like I'm in the emergency room," he says.
At a time of shrinking public resources, Missey wishes there were money for an in-patient treatment center for girls to match the existing one for boys and a "recovery school" to transition students coming out of treatment. The community is committed, he says, but "the question is always about the money."
Ruthie Edwards agrees. She's a substance abuse counselor at Comtrea, a not-for-profit mental health agency in Festus, and a member of Methamphetamine Action Coalition, a community group.
The coalition's grant funding ran out a few years ago. Edwards says the county needs a program that allows judges to appoint special advocates for children. There are plans for training to help "break the code of silence" when someone in the family is cooking meth and a school program that warns about the dangers of even a single dose of heroin.
Where will the money come from? "We don't know at this point," Edwards says.
Missey says the community won't stop fighting drugs, with or without government funds. "We're just going to have to be creative," he says.