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Efforts to end meth use grow in Iowa; a parent-organized fight is expanding

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The damage methamphetamine does to the children of addicted parents is driving state government and private group efforts to help children from affected homes.

Parents across the nation are beginning an organized fight against methamphetamine in the same manner in which Mothers Against Drunk Driving took on alcohol-related traffic crashes.

Moms Off Meth, a program for recovering addicts that was started in 1999 in the Ottumwa area, is beginning to expand. A second Moms Off Meth group was recently started in Keokuk.

More may be set up in Centerville and Cedar Rapids, said Judy Murphy, the group's co-founder who now works for the Department of Human Services as a meth specialist.

Murphy doesn't know of any groups specifically for fathers, but if enough interest was shown in an area, it could happen, she said.

Mothers Against Meth-Amphetamine is one of the national groups trying to ends meth's grip on society. The group, which doesn't have any chapters yet in Iowa, is open to men and women and now has more than a dozen chapters across the United States.

As Iowa's children are living in a state that was second only to Missouri last year in the number of meth labs discovered, state authorities also are working to help children living in homes where meth is a constant presence.

Their efforts are coming through the Iowa Drug Endangered Children program. They want to work to evaluate children, and push for rapid testing by doctors.

"These children are innocent bystanders, much like second-hand smoke victims," said Dale Woolery, with the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy.

Many experts worry about the neglect that children of meth-addicted parents suffer.

"Neglect is a major, major thing in these settings," said Dr. Resmiye Oral, a University of Iowa pediatrics professor whose research involves children exposed to meth. "The parents are just not available."

The state is also more determined to pull kids out of bad homes if necessary.

"When you see kids growing up in that situation, it's unreal how often the kids pick it up, too," said Webster County Sheriff's Detective Kevin Kruse, a member of a regional drug task force. "It just makes you sick."

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