This is the first in a monthly series of articles from Partnership Carson City.
Remember when meth was a problem in Carson City?
Well, it still is.
So are prescription-drug abuse and heroin. But when I got involved with Partnership Carson City more than six years ago, the No. 1 menace was methamphetamine.
It wasn't an exaggeration to say that most people in town had heard of somebody - a friend, a relative, the son or daughter of a neighbor - who was strung out on meth.
We went to work to make the community aware of the problem. At the same time, the Sheriff's Office cracked down, the district attorney went to court, the Community Counseling Center stepped up, the business community rallied, the schools took a fresh approach - in short, we used every tool we had to try to eradicate meth from Carson City.
We felt like we'd done a pretty good job. People realized what a crazy-dangerous drug it was. We didn't get rid of it, certainly, but we put a big dent in it.
About the time Partnership Carson City was ready to give itself a pat on the back, we heard from law enforcement and drug counselors that heroin was on the rise. And that kids were dying from prescription-drug overdoses.
We went back to work.
Obviously, meth was never the only problem in town. Focusing on that one issue, however, gave us a better understanding of how complex and interconnected were the many problems faced by a community.
In this space in the Nevada Appeal each month, members of Partnership Carson City will be writing about these issues and efforts to solve them. It's our intent to give you some insight into the many things we do.
What is Partnership Carson City?
It's like an umbrella over several of the services and organizations you already know. At one level, there's a steering committee led by Mayor Bob Crowell that sees the big picture and brainstorms ways to address the problems.
The executive board, with Dr. Jack Araza as president, oversees an organization that's been here more than 25 years. It used to be known as Community Council on Youth, and now it's called Partnership Carson City.
There is a small staff at 1711 N. Roop St. and a website at www.partnershipcarsoncity.org. Kathy Bartosz serves as director.
Beyond that are hundreds of volunteers and dozens of organizations that form a coalition. Partnership Carson City's role is to coordinate services so there isn't duplication and waste, and figure out if there are gaps that need to be filled.
Here's what we've been working on during 2012, and our focus will be similar in 2013:
• Illegal abuse of prescription drugs, including our roundups of unused medications.
• Community education programs on heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs, which we're glad to present to your group or service club.
• Current information on the effects of marijuana on young people.
• Support for local community services in their work against underage drinking and drug use.
Of course, we don't focus solely on the negative side of the equation. After all, the vast majority of Carson City residents don't have a drug problem. Youth sports, school functions, community events for families - all these are great examples of how much energy Carson City residents put into the positive side every day.
• Barry Smith, a former editor of the Nevada Appeal, is a member of PCC's steering committee and board.