Curtiss speaks out about meth task force

Posted By | April 27, 2004 12:00 am

Kim Swindell Wood
After rural Tennessee legislators questioned the qualifications of a meth subcommittee, Governor Phil Bredesen disbanded the group and has formed a new meth task force, which includes State Representative Charles Curtiss.
During the past several weeks, numerous members of the Tennessee House and Senate expressed their concerns about the makeup of a committee that was formed to review the overwhelming methamphetamine problem in Tennessee. Curtiss, who represents the White and Cumberland counties and a portion of Warren County, was one of the first individuals appointed to the new task force.
According to statistics, the occurrence of meth-related arrests is more concentrated in the rural areas of Tennessee. Therefore, legislators from the Upper Cumberland wanted better representation when dealing with meth issues.
“I think that the committee that was in place was a committee of legislators that were made up of house members and senators,” said Curtiss. “I think the biggest problem was some of those folks live in the urban areas and really didn’t realize what kinds of problems crystal meth really presents. Basically, the people the governor has appointed in this task force [new group] are all people from law enforcement, healthcare and from the areas where we truly have a meth problem, and I think everyone truly understands we really have a problem.”
The governor signed the executive order creating the task force on April 7, 2004. However, all the positions for members were not completely filled until last week. Bredesen named 20 Tennesseans from across the state to serve on the Governor’s Task Force on Methamphetamine Abuse. The panel will also include 12 ex-officio members who will provide general advice and counsel to the core group.
The task force is responsible for developing a comprehensive strategy for addressing the manufacture, trafficking and abuse of methamphetamine in Tennessee. Task force recommendations are due to the governor no later than Sept. 1, 2004. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates Tennessee now accounts for 75 percent of meth lab seizures in the Southeast.
State Senator Charlotte Burks, who represents White, Putnam, Cumberland, Jackson, Overton and Pickett counties, is also on the task force. According to Curtiss, they are the only two legislators who are “actually on the voting side of the task force.”
Other members of the task force include Ken Givens, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Rogersville, (chairman); Melvin Bond, sheriff of Haywood County, Brownsville; David Brown, licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselor, Council for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services,
Chattanooga; Steve Cope, mayor of Tullahoma; David Griswold, interim director of T.B.I., Nashville; Ed Hansberry, pharmacist with Walgreen’s, Nashville; John Henderson, district public defender, 21st Judicial District, Franklin; Leighta Laitinen, Community Outreach and Government relations manager, Mountain States Health Alliance, Johnson City; Augusta Mayo, assistant principal, Hamilton Middle School, Memphis; Roger Overholt, Morristown chief of police; Lillie Ann Sells, criminal court judge, 13th Judicial District, Cookeville; Dr. Sullivan Smith, emergency medical director, Cookeville Regional Medical; Russ Spray, CEO, Southern Tennessee Medical Center, Winchester; Bob Swafford, Bledsoe County sheriff, Pikeville; Tommy Thompson, district attorney general, 15th Judicial District, Hartsville; James Washam, Kingston chief of police; Johnnie Wheeler, commissioner, Putnam County, Cookeville; Doug Wilson, pharmacist, Rite Aid, Rockwood.
Ex-officio members include State Senator Randy McNally, 5th Senate district, Oak Ridge; State Representative Les Winningham, 38th House district, Hartsville; Ginna Betts, commissioner of Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, Memphis; Betsy Child, commissioner of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; Paula Flowers, commissioner of Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, Nashville; Gus Hargett, adjutant general of Tennessee Department of Military, Nashville; Gina Lodge, commissioner of Tennessee Department of Human Services; Viola Miller, commissioner of Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, Nashville; Fred Phillips, commissioner of Tennessee Department of Safety, Johnson City; Kenneth Robinson, commissioner of Tennessee Department of Health, Memphis; Lana Seivers, commissioner of Tennessee Department of Education; and Harry Sommers, assistant special agent in charge, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Nashville.
The first meeting of the task force will be April, 27, 2004, in Nashville. Curtiss said other meetings will be in different areas of the state where people who are impacted by meth can participate.
“Most of our meetings will have to be in rural Tennessee,” said Curtiss, “because that’s where our principal problem’s at. We’re probably going to break into two or three committees. Then, each committee will probably set its own agenda, so we won’t all necessarily be meting at the exact time.”
When asked if he “felt good” about the newly-formed task force, Curtiss replied, “Yes, I do. I honestly believe the governor will put money in and pass something, maybe a foundational building piece, this session, and then we’ll probably come back with a pretty extensive package next spring. This group that he’s [governor] put together area all aware of the problem we’ve got, because they’re living it.”

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