Second case of child ingesting meth highlights Garfield County drug problem

A Glenwood Springs woman took her 23-month-old grandchild to the emergency room the evening of Feb. 10 after the child was acting abnormally hyper and wouldn’t settle down to sleep.

The child’s blood tested positive for methamphetamine, according to a probable cause document supporting the 19-year-old mother’s arrest, and the child was treated.

The grandmother told police that she had kicked her daughter out of the apartment they shared because of drugs, and the grandmother had sole custody of the toddler.

The mother told police that the child had found a small bag of the drugs in her backpack when she came to visit, and had apparently torn it open.

The mother faces charges of possession of a controlled substance, and child abuse.

That case came a few months after a 5-year-old Rifle girl died from drinking methamphetamine bong water in December.

Cases of children ingesting methamphetamine are too rare to track, according to a Valley View Hospital spokesperson.

Yet, across Colorado, arrests and prosecutions of drug felonies is increasing.

The 9th Judicial District, encompassing Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties, saw an 85 percent increase in all drug felony charges from 2012 to 2017.

In 2019, the Glenwood Springs Police Department arrested 143 people on drug charges, compared to 109 in 2015.

As damaging as narcotics can be to the user, there are far-reaching, at times deadly consequences for those around them, and for the community.

Though new to Colorado, Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Deras has encountered many drug users in his 28 years in law enforcement in California.

“We go and find small children in these environments, which are incredibly dangerous,” Deras said of his experience at previous agencies.

“The adults in the home, their primary focus is to find that drug and that next fix to stay high,” he said.

Police have a responsibility to protect children in such cases, Deras said.

Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein said that the death of the child in December was the first time he’d seen a case of a child dying of methamphetamine use in his time in Rifle.

Klein said he isn’t sure methamphetamine use is increasing in western Garfield County, but he has made drug enforcement a priority in his three years at the department.

“In the last few years, we’ve been working a lot of our own drug cases, and making it a priority,” Klein said.

Prior to Klein’s leadership, drug cases in Rifle were usually referred to the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Increased police enforcement of drug violations has helped maintain stability in the community, Klein said, but the broader drug problem doesn’t have a clear solution.

“Making an arrest for a drug violation is not making a dent in drug use over the long term,” Klein said.

When a drug user leaves jail, there are not sufficient treatment solutions, Klein said.

“We can’t arrest our way out of the drug problems. We need drug treatment programs, which are very expensive,” he added.

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