Cases of juveniles using meth growing in KOTA Territory

BELLE FOURCHE, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Although meth has been running wild for a while now in the region, the age of certain users is becoming more of a problem.

The Western South Dakota Juvenile Services Center saw 51 cases of minors using methamphetamines in 2017 across the six counties they pull from, which is Fall River, Custer, Butte, Pennington, Lawrence and Harding Counties.

That’s risen from 34 cases in 2015.

Commander of the Juvenile Center Joe Guttierez says they are already on track to beat the 2017 numbers, and it’s only March.

In Butte County, State’s Attorney Cassie Wendt says it’s been a problem only within the last few years, and she believes it is because meth has become very accessible in the community.

However, there is some good news. Even though there are not many rehabilitation options for minors, Butte County started their programs a few years ago. Since 2015, they have seen a 88% success rate.

While that is encouraging, Wendt believes there needs to be a long-term mental health facility West River to fill a big need.

“We utilize Regional West and they do a great job for their short-term treatment programs. But any long-term programs have to go down to Yankton and that makes it very difficult to transport people, to have that community support and the family support while they are going through those treatment aspects, so I think it's really important that we figure out a way to bring those resources to all of the communities,” said Wendt.

Both Guttierez and Wendt say educating the public is key to combating the problem.

“We need to do education programs in the earlier grades,” said Guttierez. “The earlier kids get that information, the better they will have at a chance to make a good decision as they get older.”

Currently, the Juvenile Center offers methamphetamine and opiate prevention and education programs for all the juveniles at the center.

Guttierez says, “The funding for these programs comes from a mini grant that community coalitions are getting from Department of Social Services and being implemented by Western prevention resources center staff which is under Youth and family services her in Rapid City.”