Meeting addresses substance abuse

Gray Hughes

Substance abuse is a disorder that does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender or where one lives. A meeting was held on Oct. 16 to discuss substance abuse issues in the Hill City area. 

“Substance abuse is a big problem all over the nation,” said Jan Humphrey, a recovering addict who helped organize the event. “This little town is doing something about it.”

Dozens of people packed Hill City Senior Center to learn more about what is being done to combat substance abuse issues in Hill City and Pennington County.

Various people from throughout the community spoke on the topic, including Sgt. Casey Kenrick of the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo, Kate Dietz with Care Campus Addiction Treatment, Humphrey and Alan Case, who is also in recovery and heads Celebrate Recovery at the Little White Church.

Kenrick was the first person to present. He addressed the issue of meth in the Black Hills.

“Everyone wants to know what meth looks like,” he said. “Well, there are lots of forms of it.”

Most of the meth found in the Black Hills comes from Mexico and no longer is really made in “meth houses” in the middle of nowhere.

Meth, he said, starts as a liquid and becomes a powder, which makes crystal meth. It can be injected into one’s body or it can be smoked. Any way a meth addict can smoke it they will, he said.

Vargo was the next to present. Because of meth’s highly addictive qualities, Vargo said they need to lend a helping hand to those who are addicted, which includes sending people to jail.

“I’ve had people come up to me and tell me going to jail saved their lives,” he said.

There are now three drug diversion programs: one geared towards young adults, one geared to people in their early 20s and now a program for those age 26 and older.

People who want to “get clean” can go to one of those programs and the sheriff’s office can lend a hand, he said.

“If they successfully complete the program…and are clean for a year their meth arrest is sealed and we expunge the case and arrest,” he said. “We are not trying to send everyone to (jail).”

There needs to be a better job done though of reintegrating those with a history of meth abuse into the general public, he said. The sheriff’s office wants to send those people on a path towards success, he said.

Dietz presented next.

She said the Care Campus has been open for a little over a year, and it is helping people get off drugs.

There are many paths the Care Campus takes, including helping people detox and helping provide resources for families.

Humphrey discussed what being an addict is like.

She said she was attending Alanon meetings, which are for those with family members and friends who are alcoholics; however, she soon realized that wasn’t enough, and she started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

“I came to the realization when I was on an Alanon phone line while drinking a glass of wine,” she said.

That was in the 1980s, and she has been sober since.

Humphrey urged those who need help to go to a meeting, where, she said, they will find an environment where they will be able to help tackle their problems.

Case was the next to present. He focused on the benefits of Celebrate Recovery.

“It saved my life,” he said.

Celebrate Recovery, he said, is a Christ-centered organization where participants follow the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Only a small percentage of those in Celebrate Recovery are in the organization because of chemical dependencies, he said.

Most, he said, are in for support for issues such as dealing with grief, divorce, rape and other hardships in life.

“There are a lot of issues in Pennington County and in this town,” he said.

Sheriff deputy Josh Kunde said in his roughly 10 months of serving Hill City, he has not charged anyone with meth-related charges; however, there have been charges brought for other drugs such as marijuana.

The bigger issue in the town, he said, relates to alcohol.

Kenrick said there have been active investigations into distribution of meth in the area, though.

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