Meth busts in Jefferson County leave kids at risk

Sunday, January 31, 2010 | 5:16 p.m. CST; updated 5:23 p.m. CST, Sunday, January 31, 2010

HILLSBORO — While police don hazardous materials suits and protective masks to enter houses where methamphetamine has been cooked, children removed from those homes are often tucked into caseworker's car seats and driven away in their contaminated clothing.

The scene repeated itself dozens of times last year in Jefferson County, where juvenile officers removed 68 children from homes after meth lab busts, according to the Jefferson County Children's Division.

Ten children were removed in December alone.

A local group called the Meth Action Coalition is hoping to reduce the chances of cross contamination among children who ride in those car seats. They have been raising money to pay for vinyl car seat covers to prevent the spread of contamination among children removed from hazardous conditions.

"The likelihood of transfer is relatively low," said Jean Freeman, the coordinator of the coalition, who also works for the Jefferson County Health Department. "But it is a safety factor and this will reduce any likelihood whatsoever."

Already, children removed from meth labs are not allowed to take any of their belongings with them for fear that those items may be contaminated by the hazardous chemicals used to make meth.

"Ideally, we would like to have a change of clothes for them at the scene," Freeman said. "But it's traumatic enough for them to have to leave their home, let alone have to strip them down at the scene."

The vinyl covers cost about $25 each. So far, students in the Windsor School District have raised money toward the cause, along with the Jefferson County Community Partnership, a nonprofit that coordinates community-oriented projects among churches, businesses, government agencies and civic organizations.

The coalition needs about $700 more to outfit all of the Children's Division's car seats with the most sturdy car seat covers. For now, they will be improvising by using plastic crib covers, Freeman said. Lisa Drew, circuit manager of the Jefferson County Children's Division, said the vinyl covers, which caseworkers will wipe with disinfectant after each use, will benefit all children by helping prevent the spread of germs and head lice.

"We're excited they're doing this for us," she said. "It is an issue when children are removed from active meth labs that everything else might get contaminated."

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