No easy answers for meth problem in Oklahoma | Addiction Professional Magazine Skip to content Skip to navigation

No easy answers for meth problem in Oklahoma

February 23, 2012
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Treatment slots remain difficult to access for publicly funded clients

While the methamphetamine crisis that was obvious in Oklahoma about a decade ago now has strong competition from prescription drug abuse for policy-makers’ attention, coordinated responses to methamphetamine addiction remain difficult to come by in the state. The president of an Oklahoma coalition of addiction treatment agencies says the treatment community has not regained ground from several years of funding cuts, leaving individuals who lack significant resources with few treatment options.

“Our last residential treatment rate increase in the state was in the mid-1990s,” says Ray Miller, president of the Oklahoma Substance Abuse Services Alliance, which represents about one-third of the state’s 90 addiction treatment provider agencies. “It’s difficult to maintain the quality of residential treatment. A rate increase would be nice to keep pace with inflation.”

Methamphetamine, alcohol and prescription drugs are responsible in fairly equal parts for the treatment admissions in Miller’s own program (The Oaks, in the southeastern Oklahoma town of McAlester). Miller said securing treatment for anyone not on the two income extremes of the indigent and the well-heeled poses a difficult challenge.

“We’re providing for only about one of 10 individuals who need help” statewide, he says, adding, “Most of us have pretty long waiting lists.”

Even supply-side responses to the lingering methamphetamine problem have been challenging to arrive at in the state. In the current legislative session, state lawmakers in both chambers have been discussing measures to place further restrictions on access to the pure pseudoephedrine tablets used to manufacture meth. But in recent days it appeared that those efforts will go down to defeat, despite a unified call for passage among state prosecutors, Miller says. The state already had instituted some limits on access to pseudoephedrine about seven years ago, he says.

Miller sees a few signs of hope, including proposed initiatives that would target new state funding to offender treatment. But having endured three consecutive years of funding cuts, he says, it will take a while for the treatment community to catch up with levels of support from years past.