SPRINGFIELD, Mo. With so much focus on opioid abuse and treatment, it might surprise you to know there is another drug of choice running rampant in the Ozarks, according to law enforcement.
Methamphetamine distribution and use in Springfield has increased dramatically.
Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams says the department has been on the forefront of methamphetamine investigations and trying to put a dent in its use for more than two decades. However, there's been a shift in what officers are seeing on the streets.
"We are still the meth capital in the country," says Williams.
He says most of it is coming from Mexico.
"Imported, high quality, 97 percent pure, cheap methamphetamine being brought into our area instead of people having to cook up their own," explains Williams.
He believes meth abuse and treatment should be the focus in the Ozarks.
"The money that's being put at and the effort that's being put at opioid addiction are absolutely worthwhile. But there isn't the same amount of effort being put into addiction efforts and support for addressing those folks who are addicted to methamphetamine," he says.
Last year officers took more than 33,000 grams of meth off the streets in Springfield. That's about triple the amount seized three years ago.
Williams says, "To stop the import you have to stop the addiction. If you don't kill the market you're not going to kill the import of it."
Recovering addicts say finding the drug takes little to no effort.
"In my personal family, in my recovery story, methamphetamine has been our go-to substance in this area," says Adam Larkin.
He was an addict but is now a certified drug counselor with Recovery Outreach Services.
"It's just recognizing that that person is a human being because a lot of us don't feel that way in the middle of our addiction," he says.
Another resource can be found at Victory Mission.
"This program is about a lot more than sobriety and employment. We want to have a transformed life," says Mark McKnelly.
He helps men in the community fight their addictions to meth among other drugs.
"Because of the bar that we've set in the program, don't make it, even though phase one. But to have those ones that do and to see the dramatic change is incredible," he says.
James Haines is one of the men in the recovery program at Victory Mission.
"I still have scary moments but now it's getting to the point where it's getting exciting because I get to see every single change in me and people are seeing the change in me," he says.
Brad Goodman is also on the road to recovery.
"If you want out you don't have to live like this anymore. Just reach out to somebody. Find somebody that's out there that wants to help you," he says.
Larkin believes the problems with addiction should take on a larger role.
"That's never going to go away without some kind of massive intervention on the individual level, on the family level, on the neighborhood level. It's not a law enforcement issue," he says.
Law enforcement will continue the fight.
"We will keep doing what we're doing and we'll do the best we can to stop the import and the distribution but with the market that's out there, it's very. very difficult to say that we'll ever stop that," says Williams.
There are programs at local public schools to prevent the use of drugs, especially meth.
It was first presented to fifth graders but now includes high school students.