Special to the Daily News
Stand in the Gap’s Coalition met Sunday at the new headquarters building, with several representatives on hand to understand the devastation methamphetamine (meth) is playing in the lives of families all over the tri-state area.
Representatives from 10 Tennessee counties, Bell County, Ky., and Lee County, Va., met with Tennessee state Rep. David Hawk, Kentucky state Rep. Rick Nelson and Tenn. Eighth Judicial District Attorney Lori Phillips-Jones voicing horror stories of the epidemic of drug use in the area and the rising cost to taxpayers as a result.
The new headquarters is located at 502 Pennlyn Ave. in an old church in the town of Cumberland Gap.
The primary focus during the meeting was that meth is virtually impossible to make without a key ingredient in Sudafed, pseudoephedrine. This allergy medication can be changed to a gel-type capsule which makes it very difficult to convert to meth production, but its manufacturer does not want to change it thus far.
A recent attempt in January to submit a bill in congress requiring any form of pseudoephedrines capable of being used in meth production must be obtained through prescription, was met with sharp resistance from drug manufacturers.
Hawk estimated between one and two million dollars was spent by drug companies on advertising alone.
According to the lawmakers, the proposed bill would require products to be available by prescription only if they are not in a form to prohibit meth manufacturing.
Phillips-Jones produced statistics about the epidemic of drug abuse in Tennessee and its cost. She directed those attending to a new generation of allergy medication called Nexafed. On their website, www.nexafed.com, they make a bold claim: “Are you treating a cold or a criminal?”.
“The medication is reported to be as effective as Sudafed without supporting those that will make and sell methamphetamine, one of the most dangerous drugs in the nation’s history,” she said.
Drug manufacturers who opposed the bill directed people’s attention to a law already on the books stating pharmacies can only sell a limited number of packs per individual, but Hawks reported, “It simply doesn’t work. If it did, meth use would have gone down and Tennessee wouldn’t be number two in meth manufacturing in the nation.”
The coalition’s goal is to reduce and eventually totally eradicate drug and alcohol abuse in the area.
Dan Spurlock, one of Stand in the Gap’s founders explained, “A primary purpose of the Stand in the Gap Coalition is to bring support to efforts in Tennessee to educate it’s citizens, fight illegal drugs and rescue those hopelessly addicted. Dr. Edwin Robertson from Harrogate stepped up as the leader for Stand in the Gap in 2010 and began by leading prayer efforts in Cumberland Gap which drew 8,000 people and a coalition effort in November of 2012 which brought over 20,000 combined in prayer efforts targeting seven cities with the support of 10 counties last November.”
“This movement is growing. We have to do something! We’re losing our children and grandchildren to drugs,” said Robertson, adding that very few of the thousands now involved with Stand in the Gap are not affected by drug abuse, either directly or indirectly.
Hawk, who represents the Fifth District in Greeneville, shed light on how he has worked to fight drugs during the last four years he has served in Nashville.
“To determine the costs to taxpayers, we have to look at all the agencies required to fund efforts that address abuse,” he said. “Those include extra law enforcement and a prison cost to the state of $600 million, up $300 million in four years.”
It is estimated 90 percent of current crime being addressed in Tennessee is due to drugs, he added.
“Then there is added cost in agencies like Department of Children Services and prenatal trauma centers for children born in addiction, and added costs in our schools to serve these children as they grow older,” Hawk said.
One example was given by Phillips-Jones about a case in Tennessee when a meth lab exploded, burning a man involved which resulted in costing the state over $1 million in burn centers and within six days of being released the man was back in business. The example was not given to condemn the user, Phillips-Jones said, but she wanted attendees to know how powerful the addiction is that drives these victims.
While meth is only one culprit, the Stand in the Gap coalition is pledging to address issues as they are presented as well as working to develop programs to rescue victims. Recovery programs are cropping up across the 10-county area, some faith-based while others are traditional programs. In-house treatment centers are on the way, organizers say. Drug Courts are being formed and more drug coalitions are being created, said Robertson.
More information about Stand in the Gap is available on its Facebook page, visiting the website www.standntgaptn.org or by calling 423-300-1302. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.