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Idaho Meth Project spreads cautionary tales

Fri., Feb. 15, 2008

Group fights drug use with graphic images

Some teenagers in this rural North Idaho town want to know more about methamphetamine so they’re never tempted to use the highly addictive, easy-to-access drug.

That’s the response the director of the Idaho Meth Project is hoping for – educating teens and young adults before they experiment with the drug.

Executive Director Megan Ronk spent Wednesday and Thursday in North Idaho talking to groups interested in promoting the statewide campaign that includes television ads filled with images of pale, young faces riddled with sores and graphic scenes of violence, car collisions and desperate teenage criminals. The ads are appearing in a range of outlets, including in local and high school newspapers, on radio and on billboards.

The Idaho Meth Project is a private, nonprofit organization operating under the auspices of the United Way of Treasure Valley.

Ronk stopped in Spirit Lake on Thursday morning because she was impressed with a homegrown group – Youth Equipped for Success – already working to provide students with activities and life-skills education so they can stay off drugs and stay in school. YES also has an after-school drop-in center and organizes summer activities and monthly field trips.

“For such a small community it’s amazing the things you have happening in Spirit Lake,” Ronk told the four community leaders gathered at Spirit Lake Books and Coffee. The small group sat at a table beside the romance section and talked about ways to integrate the Idaho Meth Project in their activities.

Even though the turnout was small, YES Executive Director Shelley Tschida, a Spirit Lake City Council member, said the group will rally behind the Idaho Meth Project campaign. That means getting information to YES members, providing a CD of the television ads to schools to broadcast during announcements and making presentations to civic groups.

Because the YES members were in school they didn’t attend the event. YES President Eric Kennard, an eighth-grader at Priest River Junior High, had never heard of the Idaho Meth Project. But he’s anxious to hear more.

“If we actually knew more about it … we would stay away from it,” said Kennard, 13.

The YES program is aimed at kids living in the rural area who often don’t have much to do. A statewide survey by the meth project showed that 21 percent of young adults and 16 percent of teens say they would try meth to “deal with boredom.”

Tschida said that’s exactly the point of YES – to fight boredom and give students direction and inspiration. So far the group has 32 members.

“Boredom is an adult problem,” she said. “We need to deal with it and offer (youth) something to ease their boredom.”

The Idaho Meth Project is modeled after the Montana Meth Project, an effort launched in 2005 that is credited by officials with dramatically reducing meth use in that state.

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