August 28, 2008 · Updated 1:32 PM
We took 28 kids from the Marysville Middle School and another 23 from the Marysville Junior High School and boarded the bus for the 2007 Snohomish County Youth Meth Summit. Rhonda Moen was our sponsoring counselor. We entered the Everett Events Center, received our free Dont-Meth-Around T-shirts, a granola bar, bright-colored bracelet and found our seats near the front.
The Emcee, Pat Cashman, a former broadcaster, opened the program at 9:15 a.m. followed by the local Explore Scouts, who provided the flag ceremony and Pledge of Allegiance.
Governor Christine Gregoire welcomed the group via taped message, noting six years ago, Washington led the nation in meth labs. Today, the state is a leader in reducing methamphetamine by utilizing a team approach, especially targeting the youth, as a major team player to reducing the meth problem, said Gregoire. A member of the summit team read a Governors Proclamation declaring the week of Feb. 12-16 as Meth Awareness Week.
Washingtons Attorney General, Rob McKenna, next informed the 800 kids that students of Granite Falls were the first to get involved in combating the plague of meth and in 2001 formed the first Snohomish County Youth Meth Summit. The concerned and dedicated team assembled, including parents, Snohomish County officials Pam Daniels, Snohomish County Clerk, and Sheriff Rick Bart. The students have always done the majority of the planning.
McKenna said meth caused a 62 percent increase in legal cases involving families and children. In 2001, Washington ranked second in meth labs in the nation. In 2006, because of our successful team approach, the state experienced an 80 percent reduction in meth labs. Think about the kids you know in foster care because of meth, the most destructive and dangerous, most powerful drug. You have the power and ability to solve this problem.
Emcee Cashman enlightened the crowd saying that every 10 minutes a young person dies in the United States because of drugs or alcohol related incidents, which equals six deaths per hour; a participating student received a black cape and a white painted face, indicating another death and impressing the kids with the statistic.
I met a young man, Kevin, while waiting in line for lunch. He was a bit older than most of this kids. He and his family moved to the U.S. from Ireland. He said that he was a big-time dealer, having several nice cars, lots of cash and things, but few (actual) friends. He was not a user, as a dealer must be straight. The family thought it best for the dramatic change of environment. I asked him if he was a speaker later in the afternoon. No, Kevin said, and that he wasnt ready yet for that. I enjoyed speaking with Kevin, a very kind person who knows he is a much stronger individual after going through his tragic ordeal. He is thankful for this opportunity to get his life back, especially his family.
After lunch, the primary 2007 Youth Meth Summit Team Members formed a human knot. It is a fun exercise in building team communication; later, additional circles formed around the room while music played in the background.
I asked Sheriff Bart about this years Summit, comparing it to previous ones. I am constantly running into kids who tell me they were at the first Youth Meth Summit, especially the organizers. Now, those first Meth Summit kids have started Youth Meth Summits at their colleges. Its infectious.
Jerry Blackburn, our next speaker, has been clean since 1993. He is a counselor at Lakeside-Milan Treatment Center in Bellevue, and discussed the brain chemistry in terms of neurotransmitters, endorphins, dopamine, re-uptake inhibitors, and the complexities of how drugs and alcohol impact our 100 billion brain (nerve) cells. Blackburn concluded with this: drug abuse is a preventable behavior and drug addiction is a treatable disease.
Married for 25 years and employed at the same job for 27 years, Brenda Cook told the audience of her emotional pain and the tremendous costs associated with meth and its destructive power within the family. She has two sons, Kyle (19) and Tim (15). The boys were quite active is school sports, especially skiing. Kyle decided to do meth. Downhill from there, on Oct. 10, 2005 he was booked into jail. There was an intervention, a bounty hunt followed by immediate detox, and finally, a wilderness camp totaling over $60,000. On March 14, 2007 Kyle finally enters work release after serving a year in jail.