• Drug forum panelists included, from left, Sheryl Wallace, FHS assistant principal; Dawn Elder, of Starlight Recovery Center; Gillespie County Sheriff Buddy Mills; State Rep. Kyle Biedermann; Fredericksburg Police Chief Steve Wetz; Chris Ayala, Fredericksburg Police Department’s school resource officer; Dr. Steven Smith, retired physician; Ron Sutton, juvenile probation officer. Not pictured is Lucy Wilke, district attorney, 216th District Court. — Standard-Radio Post/Ken Esten Cooke

Experts talk drug problems, options in roundtable

'Wish list' of solutions range from tougher penalties to more treatment

Experts in law enforcement, the judiciary, schools and treatment centers gathered last Thursday at Oak Hills Church to brainstorm solutions and ideas about community drug issues with a focus on methamphetamine and opioid addiction.                

The forum was organized by current State Rep. Kyle Biedermann, who will face Dave Campbell in the March 6 Republican primary.

Sheriff Buddy Mills estimated that 70 percent of incarcerations are related to drug crime.

Fredericksburg Police Chief Steve Wetz worked in undercover narcotics for years before ascending the ranks of the Fredericksburg Police Department.

“Over 34 years, I’ve watched the drug problem,” Wetz said. “We can do a lot with prevention. And we can do a lot working with kids. We work a lot with organizations that provide drug services, but I’ll tell you, the best results come from those people who spend long prison terms and work in the rehab programs in the correctional facilities, where they can’t be out on the streets for two or three months. They’re in an enclosed environment.”

Wetz said prison overcrowding is because of the revolving door, caused, in part, by reduced funding for treatment programs.

District Attorney Lucy Wilke said methamphetamine was the biggest problem at present and added that 90 percent of the cases her office sees is drug-related, if not an actual drug offense, such as forging a check to obtain funds for drugs.

“I think we need to get into middle schools and high schools and start talking to them about the consequences of drug use,” Wilke said.

Wilke said there was just one known halfway house for those going through addiction treatment, and there are more than 100 in Kerrville. Yet some of those in Kerrville are not well-supervised and can be dens of more drug activity.

Dawn Elder, who runs the Starlight Recovery Center, said funds for treatment can be scarce, especially for those on the lower rungs of the income scale.

“It’s a challenge to give treatment to unfunded, indigent people,” she said.

Mills said methamphetamine is the cheapest drug out there now and it is the most addictive. Wetz added that drugs are cyclical — for a while it was cocaine, then heroin and meth. But he said marijuana is the most prevalent, by far.

Elder said with opioids costing up to $30 to $50 per pill, it is not just the destitute who are hooked. Some addiction comes from prescriptions written to recover from injuries.

Chris Ayala, Fredericksburg Independent School District’s school resource officer, said the schools host at least five drug-related curriculum searches, do regular drug dog searches of vehicles and lockers and perform random drug tests of students involved in extra-curricular activities.

Dr. Steve Smith, a retired physician, said methamphetamine is an easy, inexpensive drug that can be made in a person’s kitchen.

 

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