Eau Claire (WQOW) - The Eau Claire County Methamphetamine Response Committee held a press conference Monday in recognition of National Meth Awareness Day and prevalent problems with the drug in the Chippewa Valley.
The Eau Claire Police Department said meth arrests have been rapidly rising the past two years. There were almost 120 arrests for meth use in 2014 compared to just 18 in 2012.
Possession of meth is a felony, but law enforcement said it is often paired with more serious crimes, like burglary, shoplifting, theft, and other forms of fraud. The Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department said it is not a problem that can be solved with a simple arrest.
The sheriff's department said since 2012, the number of jail beds needed has gone up three fold, and there is not enough room to house everyone.
The Eau Claire County Department of Human Resources said methamphetamine treatment comes with special challenges requiring more than jail time since it affects memory, motivation, impulse control, and other brain functions. Staff say those impacts could take more than a year to reverse, and it has created a long waiting list to enter treatment court.
"I think it is safe to say that we can't treat everybody," Treatment Courts Program Supervisor Melissa Ives said. "Right now, we do have waiting lists to get into the treatment courts, and we know the sooner we can get people into treatment, the more effective that treatment will be. The longer people wait for treatment, the less likely we are to be successful."
Recovering meth addict Sarah Ferber shared her story Monday as a soon-to-be graduate of the Alternatives to Incarcerating Mothers (AIM) Court.
"Meth has brought me down a lot of different paths," Ferber said. "I've lost good jobs. I've lost homes and struggled with homelessness. Society isn't typically accepting of you, and a lot of times you have a criminal background. It is harder to get jobs. It is harder to get a place to live. Sometimes getting told no a lot by these places leads you to the place where you had acceptance."
The Meth Response Committee has launched a social media campaign called #morethanMeth that anyone can like on Facebook or follow on Twitter for resources. The committee hoped having an informed public will help address the issue in western Wisconsin.
There are anonymous ways to help someone on drugs get help by reaching out to the following confidential tip lines:
Drug Unit: 715-839-5054
Eau Claire Police Department: 715-839-4982
Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department: 715-839-4861