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TN funds to fight meth running out

6:54 PM, Jan 10, 2013   |    comments
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As the number of meth labs seized continues to be an alarming trend, a task force that helps decontaminate and clean up dangerous meth labs said it is set to run out of federal funding by December 31.

 

The Tennessee Meth and Pharmaceutical Task Force trains local law enforcement officers, provides protective equipment and necessary technology, and takes on a huge chunk of the financial burden associated with meth lab seizures.

 

"We've tried to alter our budgets and stretch the dollars as absolutely far as we can, and we've finally come to the year where we're projecting that we will exhaust those by the end of this year in December," said Tommy Farmer, the TMPTF Director.

 

If it has to shut down its programs, Farmer said local governments might have to find ways to front the costs.

 

"If we did have to repaint this and shift the responsibilities, it may overwhelm some jurisdictions," said Farmer. "Ultimately all jurisdictions would have significant start up costs."

 

A few of the expenses include protective chemical and fire suits, which cost up to $1,800, self contained breathing apparatuses, which ring in at $3,500, and equipped trucks, which total $75,000 each.

"Then to sustain it, the certification and the training that's required, it is costly," said Farmer.

Anderson County still tops the list in meth lab seizures across the state, and others, like Blount, are seeing upticks.

In less than a week, the Blount County Drug Task Force seized four one-pot meth labs. That, compared to just five in the entire year of 2010.

"We're doing everything we can, and we're hoping that increased training for officers and increased public awareness will combat the problem," said Marian O'Briant, with the Blount County Sheriff's Office.

O'Briant said the increased trend is partially due to the public reporting more meth labs.

If the county was to lose help from TMPTF though, O'Briant said the department is not sure what it would do.

"We are concerned, and this issue came up a couple of years ago," said O'Briant. "We hope that they continue the federal funding because a lot of agencies will be in trouble."

Tennessee ranked number one in the country in meth lab seizures in 2010. Farmer said it ranked second in 2011, and will likely remain in the top three for 2012, as over 1,800 seizures were reported across the state.

"There's nothing else coming down the pipeline that poses the threat the same way that meth and pharmaceuticals do to our communities," said Farmer.

The state budget year ends June 30th. By then, Farmer said it will be time for a back up plan if it has not received any grants or aide.

"If nothing comes down the pipeline and we don't see anything on the horizon by July, we've got to have some time. We don't want to just spring it and all of the sudden shut down and leave everybody hanging."

Farmer said the agency will do everything it can to help local governments transition if it has to shut down its systems.

 

TMPTF runs on a budget of about $3 million per year.

Farmer said Tennessee officers seize an average of five labs every day.

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