According to AIDS Foundation of Chicago Executive Director Mark Ishaug, mobilization plans to battle the epidemic use of the drug crystal meth are definitely being made.
' [ Chicago Department of Public Health STD/HIV Prevention & Care Program director ] Lora Branch and I are co-chairing a crystal meth task force through the AIDS Foundation of Chicago service providers council. The committee, which will include representatives from the AIDS, treatment, and business communities, will address this issue [ of meth abuse ] with a specific focus on men who have sex with men.'
Presumably, among the issues the committee will tackle is the dearth of resources available to meth abusers and those concerned about them. Although the use of the drug has seemingly increased exponentially in the past few years ( including several arrests in the past few months, according to a member of the 23rd District police tactical unit ) , support groups and treatment centers are few and far between.
Speaking to the usage of meth, police spokesman Pat Camden said that, although there are no specific meth-related arrest statistics, the drug continues to plague the city: 'It's difficult to break [ the numbers ] down and tell exactly how many meth arrests have been made; all narcotics arrests are put together. However, I can tell you that crystal meth usage is on the rise and we make arrests all the time.'
As an illustration of the lack of meth-related resources, Windy City Times contacted several rehab centers at random. It turned out that not one was equipped to handle crystal meth users, much less LGBT addicts. A worker at Chicago Treatment and Counseling said she did not even know the symptoms of crystal meth abuse. 'There's a need for cross-training of providers, including HIV service providers, mental health professionals, and substance abuse providers,' said Kenis Williams, the health and education coordinator at The Haymarket Center, a drug treatment and recovery center. 'They all need to be trained on all the multiple issues related to crystal meth use, especially since meth has such an impact on mental health and mood disorders.'
The Haymarket Center, 932 W. Washington, offers a variety of programs for those battling meth abuse. For example, the center has inpatient and outpatient programs such as the Primary Intensive Outpatient Program, the Intensive Patient Program, and the Conventional Outpatient Program.
'For more than a year, we've hosted Crystal Meth Anonymous meetings at our Uptown office,' said Williams. 'We also offer substance abuse treatment with supportive psychiatric services. ... We're a publicly funded program so we accept people regardless of their ability to pay.' Visit www.hcenter.org or call ( 312 ) 226-7984.
The meetings that Williams mentioned are part of the Crystal Meth Anonymous ( CMA ) program. These gatherings take place on the North Side at 4753 N. Broadway, #612. On Wednesdays, there is an 'Icebreakers Chicago' relapse prevention meeting at 7:30. On Thursdays, at 7 p.m., there is the 'Intimacy, Relationships, Sex, Recovery & Reality' forum. There's another meeting on Saturdays at 7 p.m. Call ( 312 ) 226-7984.
There are also other CMA meetings that occupy the remainder of the week. Test Positive Aware Network ( TPAN ) hosts 'Steppin' In Edgewater,' a progressive step meeting, Mondays 7:30-8:30 p.m., 5537 N. Broadway. Other meth meetings take place on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at the New Town Alano Club, 909 W. Belmont as well as Sundays at 7 p.m. at Ann Sather, 929 W. Belmont. E-mail email@example.com or call Howard at ( 773 ) 248-1009 or ( 312 ) 371-6610 as well as Mike at ( 773 ) 348-2533.
Only a few hospitals have programs designed to help people overcome crystal meth abuse. One such facility is Chicago Lakeshore Hospital, which has VALEO, a gay and lesbian behavioral health program that actually offers treatment programs specifically for LGBT individuals. ( Chicago Lakeshore Hospital is a 147-bed psychiatric facility that offers inpatient, partial hospital, intensive outpatient and traditional outpatient programs and services. ) For more information, contact Mitch Edmondson at ( 800 ) 888-0560.
Howard Brown Health Center, at 4025 N. Sheridan, offers a free Saturday afternoon ( 1:30-2:30 ) discussion group called 'Contemplations.' The group is specifically for LGBTQ individuals who may be wondering about their own drug/alcohol use and those who have recently stopped substance abuse. Contact Vanessa Ford at ( 773 ) 524-3153.
Center on Halsted is starting programs as well. Call ( 773 ) 472-6469.
In addition, people should not be afraid to contact the police. While some feel that the men and women in blue should be the last people to contact to get help, police officers insist that they would like nothing better than to help those in trouble. 'People can feel free to reach me at ( 312 ) 744-6207,' 23rd District police officer Nenad Markovich told Windy City Times. 'They can be totally anonymous. I'll drive them wherever they need to go. Whoever turned them on to it is just using them; those people are not their friends. We can't just give people free rein to kill each other—or themselves.'
'The problem [ with meth ] is twofold,' said Markovich. 'You get a lot of arrests but there are also plenty of repeat offenders. There needs to be a different way of incarcerating and treating people. The community itself has to get out there and get together—law enforcement officers, psychologists, and other people need to [ band ] together.'