Gov. Gregoire addresses the regional meth summit

September 29, 2008


Good morning, and thank you, Steve.

I’m excited to be here this morning…and on behalf of the great State of Washington and the beautiful City of Tacoma…

…Let me welcome those of you from other Western states and cities to this important conference. And I’d like to personally thank Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray for their tremendous help in fighting the meth epidemic in Washington.

This terrible epidemic of methamphetamine does not stop at the state line, and I’m grateful that we are working to combine our forces and attack it when we can at a regional level.

We have an impressive arsenal, from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI to state, county and city law enforcement, drug courts, the treatment community, and community prevention groups.

If there is one thing I’ve learned over my years as governor and state attorney general, it’s that strong partnerships across all jurisdictions are the only way to do battle with something as insidious and invasive as methamphetamine manufacture, sale, and use.

And here in Washington, I can tell you that I’m very pleased at how amazingly far we’ve come just since I took office four years ago.

The number of detected meth labs in Washington has fallen by 92 percent in the last four years!

I can tell you that four years ago, few could have guessed that we would have this kind of success in halting the spread of meth.

Because in 2004, we had almost 1,400 meth labs and to me, the future couldn’t have looked any more grim.

But here in 2008, we’ve found just 116 of these labs My goal is to get the number to zero.

And thus far, the numbers tell me we are getting there. Congratulations to all our partners for our success here in Washington.

I’d like to talk for a few minutes about what’s going on here in our state.

I think I can say that we are successful here in Washington because we have done something that, frankly, is pretty unique in this country.

We have traded personal agendas and turf battles for strong partnerships. And we are now pursuing a multi-faceted strategy of prevention, treatment and law enforcement...

…All with one simple goal – to stop people from swallowing, smoking, and shooting meth.

We knew going in that in order to get there – our approach had to be much, much more than just law enforcement.

So now in Washington, meth is not just a law enforcement issue. Far from it.

Just one good example of what I’m talking about...

We now have in every county front-line Meth Action Teams. These teams are largely volunteers, and they know a whole lot about meth in their communities. They help law enforcement, and they also spread the word to our kids and to others that meth is something that destroys lives and families.

These Action Teams are present in our schools, and they are instrumental in educating local businesses on how to spot would-be buyers of chemicals used in the manufacture of meth.

Another example.

We’re doing a much better job of rescuing and caring for the most innocent victims of the meth scourge – our kids.

And ultimately for me, it’s all about our kids.

As you know, too often when we raid meth labs, we find something else along with all the toxic chemicals and hopelessly addicted adults.

We find little children, many of them still in diapers, literally hungry, frightened, and covered in filth.
I was talking to somebody recently – a former reporter – who in the mid-90s went along on a meth-lab raid.

The law enforcement team decided to wait for the kids in the house to get on the school bus before it raided the house.
The reporter asked one of the team members what would happen to the kids when they got home. The officer said he didn’t know and it wasn’t his job to know.

But he said he hoped somebody was calling state social services so the kids wouldn’t come home to a house cordoned off by police tape.
Situations like that one are long gone.

We have developed very careful protocols to rescue, protect, and treat these kids when we find them in meth houses right from the moment law enforcement enters a home.

Law enforcement is trained to know exactly how to behave, and the medical community and our social services network is connected to help these children from the moment a meth lab bust goes down.
And that brings me to this:

As we continue to strengthen our assault on the scourge of methamphetamine and the terrible toll it takes, I just want us to remember what it’s all about – saving our kids.

So as we work together here today – as we swap information and strategies – let’s remember the children…
And let’s get to a day – hopefully very soon – when not one more child is hurt by the scourge of methamphetamine

Thank You.