Former drug addict delivers grim message
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Chris Blank spoke to Glenwood Middle School seventh- and eighth-graders about the dangers of methamphetamines Thursday morning.He wore a nice suit jacket with collared shirt and spoke with confidence.”Everybody say, ‘Hi Chris,'” Blank told the class.”Hi Chris,” the class responded in a collective voice.A black and red-colored poster on the wall of Jeanne Holmberg’s classroom read, “Health Education,” while the blue and white projected image on the pull-down video screen contradicted the poster with one simple phrase: “Meth 101.”Blank showed the class a photo of his family. Pictured were his wife of five years, Summer, and their four kids, two each from previous marriages.”This is what it’s all about,” Blank said. “It’s all about family.”Before Blank was able to smile when talking about his family, he lived through two years as a meth addict.”I had everything,” Blank told the students. “I was a father, a husband, I had a good job as a medical professional. I ended up losing all of it.”Blank’s presentation was part of an educational program designed by the Garfield County Meth Task Force Prevention Awareness Committee, which Blank co-chairs along with Missy Britton.”The purpose is to raise awareness and educate the community about meth and the presence of it in our community,” Britton said. “When you have a personal story, like Chris’s, it makes it more real for the students. It helps bring a more human aspect to the issue.”Jeff Cheney, assistant district attorney for the 9th Judicial District and chair for the Garfield County Meth Task Force, accompanied Blank in the classroom presentation. He told the students the facts about what meth is made from and how damaging it can be to the body.Cheney listed products like, Red Devil Lye or sodium hydroxide, acetone, ether, paint thinner, and freon used in refrigeration and air conditioning units as ingredients for the drug.”Would you go under your kitchen sink or into the garage and get this stuff and drink it?” Cheney asked the students. “Of course not. But that is what people are doing when they do meth.”The message was loud and clear. But even Cheney knew that it would take more than his words to convince even these young kids.”I know you’re looking at me in my suit and thinking what do I know about meth, right?” Cheney asked. “I have never done meth so what do I know?”But Blank knew the affects of the drug all too well, and it’s a powerful way to educate the students.”It’s not just hearing the facts and the information about what it is and what meth can do to you,” Britton said. “But you’re hearing about one person’s choice and the path they went down with one bad decision.”Blank told the students firsthand accounts of being paranoid and hallucinations that he’d experienced. But he also told the students of his “saving” experience that changed his life when he was arrested on drug charges and sent to Drug Court, eventually being prosecuted by his new friend, Cheney.”I’m very thankful that I got caught,” Blank said. “That is when I changed my life.”The Meth Task Force was formed in November of 2006 and has several sub-committees focusing on issues such as drug-endangered children, treatment, public safety, as well as prevention awareness. A preliminary study conducted by the Western Colorado Methamphetamine Research Center at Mesa State College, released earlier this year, showed that between 2003 and 2007, meth had become the most prosecuted drug in Garfield County.Blank said that a big problem is that people just don’t know how big of a problem meth is in the county.”There is a big meth community in the county,” Blank said. “It’s a subculture and we can only try to expose it and educate the people about what’s going on.”That’s why Blank goes to the schools and talks to kids as young as 12 years old. Blank spent Wednesday at Glenwood Springs High School talking to students there. Blank, Cheney and Britton all hope to continue spreading Chris’ message.”It’s a powerful message. They can see that they are human, just like Chris is human, and he made a choice that anyone can make,” Britton said. “It makes them understand how powerful their choices can be.”Contact John Gardner: firstname.lastname@example.orgPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
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