Meth lab task force in danger of closing

Meth lab task force in danger of closing after federal funding runs out

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"If we lose this organization, which basically brings all of the counties together to function as a single unit, the cost for the individual counties is going to be tremendous," said small business owner Mark Hoskins. "If we lose this organization, which basically brings all of the counties together to function as a single unit, the cost for the individual counties is going to be tremendous," said small business owner Mark Hoskins.
"There are all kinds of costs associated with it and we as a community can't afford that, especially in a place that has 100 labs a year," said Chief Jimmy Jefferies. "There are all kinds of costs associated with it and we as a community can't afford that, especially in a place that has 100 labs a year," said Chief Jimmy Jefferies.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

LAFOLLETTE (WATE) - Funding is running out for a meth lab clean-up program and now law enforcement officials and business owners in Campbell County are calling for action.

It's a community that really needs help with this issue. Figures for Campbell County show it has one of the worst meth problems in one of the worst meth states.

Tennessee was second in the nation for meth busts in 2011 and 2012 and topped the list in 2010.

LaFollette's police chief says if funding isn't renewed soon, Tennessee's Meth and Pharmaceutical Task Force will be closed in six months.

Campbell County has around 100 meth busts a year, and if the federal funding runs out, the chief has no idea what the cost will be to the community.

Mark Hoskins was born and raised in LaFollette and owns a local small business. He's worried about what the end of the task force would mean for the community.

"If we lose this organization, which basically brings all of the counties together to function as a single unit, the cost for the individual counties is going to be tremendous," said Hoskins.

The task force formed in 1999. The organization provides equipment and meth lab training to law enforcement agencies across the state.

LaFollette Police Chief Jimmy Jefferies says if the task force wasn't there, each agency would have to spend around $250,000 just to buy the truck, protective suits, hazardous waste containers, and training to neutralize the substance.

"There are all kinds of costs associated with it and we as a community can't afford that, especially in a place that has 100 labs a year," said Chief Jimmy Jefferies.

The director of the task force says the national debt crisis has caused lawmakers in Washington to not renew the organization's funding.

They will be out of money by December, but local agencies will still have to clean up meth labs because meth labs are labeled as an immediate danger to public safety.

Chief Jefferies says meth causes hundreds of children to be placed in foster care each year. The drug also causes an increase in other crimes.

"People on meth will do basically anything they have to do from stealing, we have a lot of burglaries, we've had some violent crimes, robberies that are meth-related," said Chief Jefferies.

Hoskins, along with other community members, city council members and law enforcement officials have started a group to raise public awareness and ask lawmakers to approve funding for the task force.

The community group is also asking state lawmakers to make all pseudoephedrine products only available by prescription.

Chief Jeffries says Oregon has implemented the law and meth lab busts have dropped from almost 450 meth labs busted a year to 20.

The director of Tennessee's Meth and Pharmaceutical Task Force hopes the federal government will renew the $3 million grant, which will fund the task force.

He also said they could survive with $2 million from the federal government if the state gives $1 million, as it did in 2010.

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