Atoka Co. tops in Oklahoma in state-funded meth treatment patients

By: Daniel Gotera Email
By: Daniel Gotera Email

ATOKA COUNTY, OK -- More Atoka County residents enter state-funded treatment for meth use than any other county in the state of Oklahoma. Now county officials say it's time to do something about it. .

To put it simply, county officials say they just don't have enough money to treat meth addicts. On Thursday, they started trying to get that money from the state so they can put a stop to the drug abuse.

A room full of doctors, law enforcement, and county officials gathered together to try and stop the growing problem of meth use and abuse in Atoka County.

"I’m more disappointed than I think surprised," mental health professional John Hartzell says.

To treat the problem, the county needs facilities to treat the addicts that experts say the state should be paying for, but instead of paying for treatment facilities in Atoka County, where meth has proven to be the drug of choice among users, the state funding is going to other counties.

"I think anytime we have a population that is significant, the provision of services need to be there for whatever the needs are."

Dr. David Hartzell lives in Denison, but travels to Atoka every week. He is one of the few medical professionals to treat drug abusers in the county and says there is a huge need for a program to help users transition back into society.

Hartzell is trying to form a drug corps treatment program with other local doctors to provide services like those offered by the state.

"I don’t think there has been the cohesiveness between the organizations and that’s one of the things we're trying to do today is to get everyone on the same page."

Law enforcement officials say while treating meth addicts is important, sending the message that there will be consequences for illegal drug use will also help in the long run.

"i understand the prisons are full but at the same time we're going to have to send the message someway to nip this thing now," Atoka County Sheriff Gary McCool says.

State money and backing could do just that, even if it might take awhile.

"I don’t think we should single ourselves out as being the worst, but it’s not just a problem here, it’s a statewide problem."

Atoka County officials say they plan on talking to their state representatives to try and persuade them to push for money for county programs.

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