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Committee develop standards for helping children from meth homes

The effects of meth on the users are obvious.

Their teeth rot. They lose their hair. They often become agitated and paranoid.

But what does meth do to the children who are growing up in meth labs with daily exposure to the dangerous chemicals inside their homes?

Circuit Court Judge Sandra Martinez, whose circuit includes St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Washington and Madison counties, is a member of the state’s newly-formed Children in Meth Labs Steering Committee.

It’s a committee that has been formed to develop standards for helping children from meth homes and studying the effects of exposure to meth lab chemicals. The project by the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association is being funded by the federal government.

Judge Martinez said the committee members will meet with members of their community to come up with protocols to better insure the safety of those children. They will look at introducing laws that will make it easier to protect children, including newborns who test positive for meth.

Judge Martinez said she already orders tests on newborns when a mother who has other children under her jurisdiction becomes pregnant again. If the baby tests positive for meth, the baby is removed from the mother’s care but the mother is given a chance to get clean.

Missouri has led the nation in meth lab seizures for the past couple years. Sen. Kit Bond, who helped secure the federal funding for the project, said more than 500 children are found near meth labs each year in Missouri.

&#8220We have a strong and dark conclusion that there probably is a much greater problem than even we know,” Bond told the Associated Press at the committee’s first meeting this month.

Sheriff Dan Bullock estimates about 80 percent of the time, children are present during a meth lab bust in St. Francois County. The children are turned over to the Division of Family Services or to family members who are not involved in the incident, typically a grandparent.

Judge Martinez said the difference between meth and other drugs like heroin and cocaine is that meth users can manufacture the drug in their own kitchens, mostly to satisfy their own meth addiction.

&#8220Kids are being raised in homes where serious chemicals are being used,” she said.

She said the children are in contact with the dangerous fumes and there is a potential that the meth lab could blow up.

Tests can find traces of meth on their clothing, skin, beds and diaper bags. According to the Associated Press, children are more likely than adults to absorb meth lab chemicals into their bodies because of their size and their higher rate of metabolism.

Judge Martinez said it is not known what the long-term health effects of meth exposure are.

She said often times, children who are found where meth labs operate have been neglected or physically abused. She said often they live in deplorable conditions and they are not being fed and their hygiene needs are not being taken care of.

Fortunately, she hasn’t seen that parents are letting their children use meth.

&#8220It’s happened but it’s not very common,” she said. &#8220It’s not something I (typically) see, which is good.”

Also, Judge Martinez has found that marijuana, not meth, is the drug of choice for teenagers.

According to LifeorMeth.org, meth is a powerful and highly-addictive “upper” like cocaine that produces alertness, and elation, along with a variety of adverse reactions.

The side affects of the highly addictive drug include hair loss, rotting teeth, heart and nervous system damage, sudden mood changes, agitation, paranoia and anxiety.

According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, meth, also known speed, crank, crystal-meth, glass, and &#8220poor man’s cocaine,” is usually white or slightly yellow in color. It can be taken orally, injected, snorted, or smoked.

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