[ View Original Article ]

Sen. Bob Casey on Tuesday wrote a letter to a California-based organization that educates the public on the dangers of methamphetamine use and requested it perform an analysis of the “meth crisis among youth in Pennsylvania.”

While statewide the problem appears to be growing – Mr. Casey said the 39 meth labs discovered in Pennsylvania in 2009 jumped to 65 in 2010 – Lackawanna County has so far been largely spared from the drug, save for infrequent appearances.

The Meth Project, a private organization based in Palo Alto, Calif., works to prevent methamphetamine use through advertising and community outreach, educating individuals on the dangers of the drug.

The project has already established campaigns in eight states, according to its website, and Mr. Casey said he hopes an incarnation of the organization in Pennsylvania would stem what he sees as a rising tide of meth use among teenagers around the commonwealth.

“It’s a threat to our communities that we’ve all been hearing about for years, and if anything, the problem has gotten substantially worse,” Mr. Casey said.

The most recent bust of a meth lab in Lackawanna County came in Throop in July when borough officers responding to a domestic dispute at 731-733 Dunmore St. found enough evidence of the drug’s manufacture to secure a search warrant for the premises.

Investigators later uncovered evidence of a working meth lab and arrested three residents, including Gary McNees, 35, 731 Dunmore St., who later admitted to cooking methamphetamine in the apartment twice a week for about two months, authorities said at the time.

But aside from occasional appearances in Lackawanna County, methamphetamine has seemed more of a rural problem in the region’s outlying counties to Joseph Jordan, chief of detectives for the Lackawanna County district attorney’s office.

The narcotics unit Chief Jordan oversees works primarily in investigating crack, heroin and cocaine dealers in Scranton and surrounding municipalities.

That said, several characteristics of methamphetamine leave open the possibility of a larger meth presence in Lackawanna County, Chief Jordan said.

“The way that it could be manufactured and the speed of it and the price on it. … It’s just a matter of time,” he said. “I think it’s coming.”

State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan expressed a similar attitude in an interview with The Times-Tribune in August, during which he said that one of the biggest challenges in Northeast Pennsylvania is the migration of meth labs from rural areas to more populated areas and the proliferation of small-time manufacturers operating them, according to The Times-Tribune archives.

Jeffrey Zerechak, administrator of the Lackawanna/Susquehanna Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs, said that only about 1 percent of drug users seeking treatment in Lackawanna and Susquehanna counties are declaring methamphetamine as their primary drug. That 1 percent translates to five to 10 people, he said, a number that has remained constant for the past several years.

“On the treatment side, we are not seeing any dramatic increases in methamphetamine use,” he said.

Granted, it could be that methamphetamine users are simply not seeking treatment.

“I can’t say that (methamphetamine use) is not escalating,” Mr. Zerechak said. “We’re just not seeing that population requesting treatment at higher levels. … We’ve been bracing for this trend but we haven’t seen it.”

Contact the writer: moc.k1516708949corma1516708949hssem1516708949it@ye1516708949llamo1516708949d1516708949