Nevada panel targeting meth addiction holds first meeting

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A panel formed to help reduce methamphetamine addiction in Nevada held its first meeting Thursday, outlining plans to quickly endorse legislative proposals for anti-drug efforts.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, chairwoman of the panel, said an initial report on possible solutions for the crisis caused by the highly addictive drug, including recommended law changes, is due at the Legislature April 1.

Cortez Masto also said there's no "short-term fix" to Nevada's meth problems, and the 16-member group will work on goals such as an effort "to bridge the gap between (police) enforcement and treatment."

Michael Flanagan of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration said Mexico-based drug smugglers bring meth into the state for addicts here, and also use Nevada as a way station for meth shipments to other states.

Flanagan also said the DEA tries to cooperate with local authorities in breaking up gangs that manufacture and sell meth and other illicit drugs. Asked about increased staffing for the anti-drug efforts, he said, "More is always better."

Maria Canfield, head of the state's Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Agency, told the group that meth addicts respond to treatment - but there's a pressing need for longer treatment programs.

Canfield said that in 2006 about 3,700 meth users went through Nevada-based treatment programs. That's about a third of the total
number of people in such programs for all types of substance abuse.

The figure for meth treatment compares with an estimate of at least 100,000 meth users just in the Las Vegas area. That figure came from advocates of expanded treatment during a legislative hearing on Tuesday.

Gov. Jim Gibbons, whose wife Dawn is on the meth panel, has asked lawmakers to approve $17.4 million for anti-meth efforts over the next two fiscal years. That includes $5.3 million to replace federal funds that will no longer be provided for community prevention programs.

Andrew Clinger, Gibbons' budget director, said part of the money would be used to help reduce waiting lists for treatment that have averaged two to three weeks.

Anti-meth bills already being considered by state lawmakers include AB150, which would require a doctor's prescription for any medicines that have ingredients such as pseudoephedrine that can be used to make meth.

Cortez Masto has said that 40 percent of Nevada's male prison inmates and 72 percent of female inmates are in prison for crimes related to meth, and most of the children in foster homes were taken from parents who were abusing meth.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)