University of Missouri - Columbia.
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Posted 12.07.05

Bond Helps MU Center Assist Children Endangered by Meth Production

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, methamphetamine, or meth, is considered the fastest-growing illicit drug in America. Missouri is one of the top meth-producing states in the nation with labs located in sheds, barns and homes. Children may live in or near these labs. Now, thanks to funding secured by Sen. Kit Bond from the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs, the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association (MJJA) and the University of Missouri-Columbia's Truman School of Public Affairs are collaborating on a project designed to improve the safety and medical care of Missouri children who are found in or near meth labs.

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It is created from toxic chemicals, many of which are commonly found in or around the home. Children living in and near meth labs commonly face contamination from toxins used and created in the meth-making process. These toxins can be found on all surfaces of the residence, including children's toys. Chemicals used to produce meth often are stored in unlabeled food and drink containers on floors and countertops, placing them easily within the grasp of young hands. Children also are more likely than adults to absorb meth lab chemicals into their body because of their size and higher rate of metabolism and respiration. Other risks for children include fire and explosion, child abuse and neglect, social problems and, in some cases, death.

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"Sen. Bond's advocacy to fight meth prompted him to contact MJJA because of our mutual concern about the health and well-being of children who are found in or near meth labs," said Julie Cole Agee, MJJA director. "The Missouri Juvenile Justice Association's 'Children in Meth Labs Project' seeks to improve the safety and medical care of children found in meth labs."

Currently, many agencies in Missouri have their own procedures for handling children living in meth labs, but no uniform statewide protocol exists that allows for easy coordination among these agencies. This project will address this issue.

"The MJJA and the Institute of Public Policy in the MU Truman School of Public Affairs will work with three workgroups and a multidisciplinary steering committee consisting of representatives from various agencies to develop, implement and publish statewide, coordinated interagency protocols for children in meth labs," Agee said. "We will develop a training curriculum based on these protocols and use this curriculum to provide six regional training programs to multidisciplinary personnel throughout Missouri. We also will develop a Web-based course focused on these protocols."

The committee met for the first time on Nov. 29 to begin working on the protocols.

"Safeguarding the quality of life of Missouri's children is crucial to the future of our state," Bond said. "In continuing our fight against meth, we must take care of its most defenseless victims - our children. I look forward to working with the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association and the Truman School of Public Affairs in the development and implementation of the necessary statewide, interagency protocols that will assure the health, protection and well-being of each child found in or near a meth lab."



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