Eyes of compassion view meth problem

Rodger McDaniel is well known in Wyoming. He served as a legislator in the Wyoming House of Representatives and Senate for 10 years and worked as a lawyer for 20 years. He was the Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. Senate in 1982. With strong devotion to God and lengthy service with Habitat for Humanity, McDaniel is in many ways "the quintessential Wyomingite - confident, courageous, and family oriented," wrote David Singh for Practitioner Perspectives, a U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance bulletin dated May 2001.

McDaniel and his wife were lovingly raising their children, daughter Meghan a gifted cellist at the age of 16 and president of her church group. "No one would have suspected that she was also addicted to methamphetamine - least of all Rodger McDaniel," wrote Singh. In McDaniel's own words, "We were involved in the lives of our children. We thought that would immunize them against problems like drug abuse." After being awakened in the middle of a March night in 1998, McDaniel told Singh, "I thought I had done everything right. I knew that kids used drugs, but I thought it was other people's kids."

As Meghan lay on a hospital bed in a hospital emergency room that night, not even the medical staff could offer much help. Overdoses from meth were not seen much in that part of Wyoming, wrote Singh, and finding treatment for Meghan was not going to be easy. One helpless doctor suggested tentatively that there might be a Treatment Center in faraway Colorado Springs. For long-term residential treatment for their daughter the McDaniel's quickly learned there were no beds available in the state.

They found the Hazelden Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota after much effort and frustration. "It took 4 months in an intensive controlled environment before Meghan even considered going sober," McDaniel told Singh. Two and a half years after entering treatment, Meghan has returned sober to Wyoming, her family and college education, determined to rebuild her life.

Said McDaniel, "In this journey, we learned two important lessons. The first is that this problem can happen to anyone. The second is that treatment, when done well, works." The McDaniel Family's experience with the "meth epidemic" mirrors other Wyoming residents and has apparently set a more compassionate and positive tone amongst officials watching drug abuse patterns in their state.

Wyoming residents did not notice or did not want to see the warning signs in the early-90s about growing meth popularity. Young Meghan McDaniel found her drug of choice in a time when methamphetamine use was replacing cocaine as popular drug of choice. Because of drug law prohibition and control, it wasn't long before illegal "bootleggers" of meth found that a great deal of money could be made in Wyoming selling meth.

Wrote Singh in conclusion about Rodger McDaniel's drug war journey, "Today, many Wyoming citizens see addiction through eyes of compassion, not disgust. An ambitious initiative to rid the state of meth and meth addiction is under way, and it marks a shift in priorities from enforcement to treatment. Notably, the shift also enjoys overwhelming public support."

Practitioner Perspectives is a regularly published bulletin from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Thanks to David Sullivan for this "heads up" on drug war stories published by our government.

The Razor Wire is a publication of The November Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates drug law reform. Contact information: moreinfo@november.org
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