Akin plans forum on meth issue

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, July 14, 2018

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Working undercover in the 1980s, Lane Akin witnessed the terrible grip methamphetamine took on abusers.

Akin recalled a pregnant young lady injecting the drug into her arm while working the case.

“That’s when I said to myself, ‘what’s going on here?'” Akin recalled.

“I wonder about that child and was it addicted to meth. Was it ever able to be a productive member of society?”

Thirty years later as Wise County Sheriff, Akin continues to see the effects of the drug on people. He estimates that 85 percent of the 222 people currently incarcerated in the Wise County Jail are there for crimes directly tied to meth, possession or transporting the drug, or indirectly committing thefts or other crimes while abusing the drug.

“So many times it comes back to them being a meth user,” Akin said. “It wrecks so many lives.

“Many are husbands and fathers, but none when they are using meth are productive citizens.”

This year, his department has made 51 arrests and taken five pounds of meth off the streets – five times more than last year. He said Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers have also confiscated 12 pounds this year. Wise County is a member of the seven-county North Texas Sheriffs’ Criminal Interdiction Unit. In the first six months of this year, the partnership has confiscated 78 pounds of meth.

“We’ll arrest and seize all the drugs we can and see that they are punished,” Akin said. “But we can’t arrest our way out of this problem. We have to look at the mental health aspects, education and rehab.”

That approach is behind a community forum that Akin is putting together with Wise Health System at 6 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Wise County Law Enforcement Center. Akin is a member of the hospital’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee.

Akin wants to bring together law enforcement, health care professionals, counselors and former drug abusers and addicts to discuss the issues facing the county with meth and try to find solutions.

“To me there is no greater health issue in our county than meth,” Akin said.

“If we can attack this on all fronts, we can make a difference. We want to bring together a lot of people passionate about this issue. There’s a lot of victims.”

Jordan Holzbog, WHS’s manager of population and community health improvement, is working with Akin to organize the forum.

“To have someone so dedicated and knowledgeable wanting and willing to take on this issue head on is important,” Holzbog said. “I’ve been here a year and half and have seen the impact on the community. It’s such a large issue. We need to get all the troops together that really understand the issue. We all see the stories in the paper from when officers make an arrest, but a lot of people don’t see how it affects the community. We’re trying to start at the forefront and stop users from using in the first place. I applaud [Akin] for taking on this issue, and we’re glad to have him on our mental health substance abuse committee.”

Akin said a recent rise in the meth use and related criminal activity is due to the availability. When he was working undercover in the mid-80s, Akin claimed the price of a gram of meth was $100. It is now $30.

He points out that federal laws drove the production out of the United States by limiting the availability of phenylacetic acid and later pseudoephedrine.

“It drove all manufacturing to Mexico and subsequently meth got cheaper and more potent,” Akin said. “It’s led to the situation we have now.

“We’ve identified the problem. Now, we have to seek a solution. We found two solutions before, but now it’s coming back to the U.S. in greater quantity.”

Akin hopes bringing resources together, they can find help for many individuals battling the addiction to meth. It’s a battle he’s committed to fighting.

“When I stop trying, I’ll retire,” Akin said.

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