By Nancy Gannon Hornberger
For decades, San Diego County has been at the epicenter of a pervasive domestic methamphetamine industry. Although no longer regarded as the “meth capital of the United States,” San Diego remains on the front line of the meth epidemic.
The illegal stimulant has exacted a heavy toll on local residents: The San Diego County Medical Examiner‘s office reported 311 meth-related deaths in 2015. That’s the most meth-related deaths in county history.
Knowing people who have suffered from meth addiction and death is part of my personal and professional experience. I have friends and colleagues who have lost loved ones — including teenagers — to meth, or have lost children, spouses, and friends to the justice system because of the ravages of meth addiction.
At SAY (Social Advocates for Youth) San Diego, we hold a vision of opportunity, equity, and well-being for all San Diegans. Our team takes a public-health-focused approach to raising awareness, increasing prevention, and reducing misuse and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and drugs, through community collaboration and empowerment.
SAY San Diego’s commitment to collaboration inspires “Do Something About Meth,” our creative partnership with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California and the Playwrights Project. Together, we’ve commissioned, developed and produced “Other People’s Kids,” a play written by Mabelle Reynoso. “Other People’s Kids“ tells the true stories of San Diegans caught up in the inter-generational web of meth addiction. With candor and empathy, the play examines the painful struggles of addiction while offering a message of hope.
Drawing from the resources and expertise of the San Diego County Probation Department, Second Chance and the McAlister Institute, as well as inspiration from the brave and generous individuals whose life stories informed this production, “Other People’s Kids“ affirms our partnership’s commitment to advancing a regional approach to methamphetamine prevention, treatment and recovery.
“Do Something About Meth” did not develop in a vacuum. In fact, our vision and values are predicated on the mission of the San Diego County Meth Strike Force. Authorized by the Board of Supervisors in 1996, the 70-member multi-disciplinary organization functions primarily as a coordinating and planning body to reduce demand, availability and accessibility of methamphetamine in San Diego County.
Perhaps best known for its annual report card, which tracks nine indicators of the meth problem in San Diego, the Meth Strike Force also operates the San Diego County Methamphetamine Hotline (1-888-No- 2-METH) for information on treatment and to report criminal activity. The public also can receive immediate help and referral information about drug treatment and recovery by calling the San Diego Access and Crisis Line at 1-888-724-7240.
“Other People’s Kids“ will be presented on the stage of San Diego State University’s Experimental Theatre, March 16-18 at 7:30 p.m., and March 19th at 2 p.m. Actors from SDSU’s School of Theatre, Film and Television will bring the stories to life. Performances also will showcase “Finding Our Way,” a Playwright’s Project production spotlighting personal stories of addiction written by inmates of Donovan Correctional Facility.
Community members are encouraged to attend and engage in an expansive discussion about meth addiction and building viable paths toward treatment and recovery. Tickets are available free online.
As “Other People’s Kids” came together in fall 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General issued “Facing Addiction in America,” the first report to the nation on alcohol, drugs and health. The eye-opening report sets forth a compelling call to action: “The most important thing is, we have to change attitudes towards addiction and get people into treatment.”
“Other People’s Kids” is a testament to our partnership’s commitment to standing up and speaking out to end the epidemic of meth addiction. San Diegans, from all walks of life, are invited to join this important cause.
Nancy Gannon Hornberger is president and CEO of SAY San Diego, a nonprofit organization committed to partnering with youth, adults, families, and communities, empowering them to reach their full potential.