Anti-meth campaign launched

Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A statewide campaign to encourage Alaska youth not to use the highly addictive and devastating drug methamphetamine was launched Monday in Anchorage.

Mayor John Williams, of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Mark Begich, of the Municipality of Anchorage, and Matanuska-Susitna Borough Mayor Curt Menard, all members of the Tri-Borough Commission, announced the $100,000 multi-media campaign during a press conference.

The effort aims at preventing young Alaskans from trying the deadly drug even once.

“Across America, in small communities and rural areas, meth is taking an ever-growing toll on our children and young adults,” Williams said in a press release. “Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula are no exception. We must strive to educate all of our communities.”

According to the Department of Public Safety, meth arrests have doubled and distribution arrests have quadrupled over the past five years, demonstrating that the drug is a growing problem in the state. In 2004, 66 meth-manufacturing labs were busted in Alaska, the department said.

The Tri-Borough Commission decided a year ago to tackle methamphetamine problems, raising nearly $150,000, thanks largely to the efforts of former Mat-Su Mayor Tim Anderson, who is now working as the meth education campaign coordinator.

Overseeing the effort is an advisory group composed of two experts from five local governments, including Anchorage, Mat-Su, Kenai, Fairbanks and Juneau. Funding has come from numerous sources, including Central Peninsula Hospital.

Marathon Oil Company, which has launched its own anti-meth initiative, will host a statewide conference on meth later this year.

Part of the anti-meth campaign will include radio and television advertisements produced locally by Porker Communications, an Anchorage advertising agency. Gov. Sarah Palin has agreed to tape a public service announcement to help kick off the campaign, the press release said. Stations have been asked to run the spot as a public service announcement.

Funds raised for the campaign will be used to buy TV time to run the other ads. KTUU-TV has agreed to match the TV buy on a one-to-one basis, the mayors announced. The campaign will air two TV and radio ads throughout the state during the month of May.

The Alaska Legislature has been asked to kick in $200,000, and another $400,000 is being requested of Congress. The money will be used to continue the campaign and expand it into Alaska schools.

“Meth is particularly attractive -- and dangerous -- to young Alaskans. That’s the focus of this campaign,” Begich said. “Convincing Alaskans to stay away from this terrible drug will save heartache to families and millions of dollars in law enforcement and treatment costs.

Menard noted that Alaska is spending $330 million on a new prison, and $90,000 a year to house each inmate, many of whom are there because of alcohol and drug charges.

“If we can intercede and stop citizens from getting entangled in this devastating drug, it will save lives and redirect our spending toward much more than guards and prison cells.”

For more information on the Alaska Meth Education Project, visit www.AlaskaMethEd.com, or call 745-3323.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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