BISBEE - Methamphetamine use is rising so fast in the state that an aggressive campaign is being devised to combat use of what is proving to be the country's most dangerous drug.
Maricopa County officials have suggested that the counties band together in a state-wide initiative, called the Arizona Meth Project, to get the biggest bang for the buck.
As of Tuesday, with a vote of Board of Supervisors members Richard Searle and Paul Newman, Cochise County will be an active participant in that initiative with its ante of $101,641, the county's total portion from the state.
Newman, via telephone, noted that 75 to 80 percent of the crime in Cochise County is meth-related and something needed to be done. The meth project was a "good idea," and he was in favor of joining forces to stop the growing problem.
Searle felt more money is likely necessary.
"One-hundred thousand dollars is not enough to make a difference within the county," Searle said. "But with $3 million, we can do it."
County Administrator Jody Klein gave some background on the project.
"The project will be similar to the one started in Montana, the No. 1 state for meth abuse," he said. "We're fortunate that the organizer of that effort, Tom Siebel, (Montana), has agreed to help Arizona."
Leading the Arizona Meth Project will be an advisory board, made up of various appointed representatives, and Siebel, an important player already established in the anti-meth world, Searle said.
In Montana, the problem got so out-of-hand that Siebel decided to fund a campaign of advertising targeting 12- to 16-year-olds. His ads showing graphic re-creations of the effects of meth use have made a dent in the target audience and beyond.
The Web site, www.montanameth.org, is an example of the head-on attack Montana residents and authorities are waging against the use of the drug, which ends up costing taxpayers millions of dollars in healthcare, cleanup of toxic lab sites, prison time and rehabilitation, not to mention the cost to children's emotional and physical well-being as they are taken from their drug-abusing parents, often with meth contamination already present in their bodies.
Siebel added the stipulation he would help only if there was no referral to any elected officials of Arizona or any political subdivisions in any of the campaign materials, including advertising. He did not want the crusade to be a political issue, Klein said.
With the research already done by Siebel's team, money will be spent in production of TV, cable and radio ads, Searle said. The ads will be customized for Arizona.
"We hope all 15 counties will join in so that we can maximize the effort to the fullest extent," Searle said.