Group aims to curb meth abuse with community-tailored effort

NEW YORK: The Partnership for a Drug-Free America is launching its first PR and community relations campaign to educate parents, as well as business and civic leaders, about the dangers of methamphetamine use.

NEW YORK: The Partnership for a Drug-Free America is launching its first PR and community relations campaign to educate parents, as well as business and civic leaders, about the dangers of methamphetamine use.

The nonprofit organization last week hired four agencies to launch the "Meth360" outreach effort in pilot communities across the US.

The agencies leading the regional components of the campaign are Sawchuk, Brown Associates in Albany, NY; Moore Ink. in Seattle; Atwater Communications in Alexandria, VA; and Schnake Turnbo Frank in Tulsa, OK.

The campaign combines chilling PSAs with community outreach. It will also identify local meth users in treatment and recovery programs, and will encourage them to share their stories about how the drug has affected their lives.

Abuse of meth - also known as crystal, crank, or speed - used to be seen primarily on the East Coast, but now affects communities across the country, noted Hallie Deaktor, the Partnership's deputy director of public affairs.

In addition, so-called meth labs can cause uniquely profound property and environ-mental damage because the production of each pound of the drug creates five pounds of toxic waste.

Meth use is also closely tied to identity theft, domestic violence, and illegal gun possession, Deaktor noted, making it singularly dangerous to both users and non-users alike.

The message - like the PSAs - is likely to present a no-holds-barred view of the community impact. The spots, for instance, show former meth users or their children reading from harrowing personal blogs. One former addict is disfigured from an incident when he put a shotgun under his chin and attempted to commit suicide.

In another spot, a girl methodically plucks out her eyebrow in an example of how meth causes users to fixate on a repetitive, self-destructive behavior.

"Meth has such [long] tentacles that reach into the community; everyone is affected," said Teresa Moore, owner and president of Moore Ink. "This was potentially the most dangerous drug ever created. It is an incredibly addictive drug that takes over people's lives."

Starting later this year, teams of police officers and meth counselors will deliver presentations in front of civic and social organizations, such as rotary clubs, churches, and parent-teacher associations.

"It's the first time they've addressed a communitywide audience," Deaktor said. "Rarely do parents ever hear from someone in law enforcement, someone in treatment, and someone in prevention all at once."

Each agency will also direct local media relations. Moore, for instance, plans to pitch the local foster-care beat reporter on the toll that meth takes on the social services system. She also plans to enlist the help of her other nonprofit clients, such as the YWCA, to participate in the campaign.

And while the outreach effort will be tailored to each region, the agencies plan to share ideas with one another about what works and what doesn't.

In addition, the Partnership undertook extensive research ahead of the campaign, including identifying each pilot community before it selected the agencies it wanted to work with.

David Brown, who is CEO of Sawchuk, Brown Associates, noted, for instance, that Albany is a representative mix of urban, suburban, and rural communities. It is also a growing region with thriving media outlets and a number of colleges and universities.

"This is a perfect market to get the word out," he said. "Being a state capital, so many decisions are made here related to law enforcement. [In addition], this area is not a problem area, but it could be without good communication."

The campaign will not take a stance on legislative attempts to curb meth use, such as bills that call for restrictions on the sale of some cold medicines, said Deaktor. Rather, she noted, the education campaign aims to reduce demand for meth, most of which is made outside the US and trafficked in.

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