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March 25, 2013

HOWEY: Indiana, the meth state

INDIANAPOLIS — Welcome to Indiana, the Methamphetamine State.

  It just hurts to write that of this deadly scourge that hollows out faces, lives and families, that rots away teeth, and is now threatening to engulf our cities and towns, as well as creating toxic waste sites along our county roads and highways.

I watched Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer at the Statehouse on Tuesday, holding up a box of Nexafed and for a brief moment he struggled to keep his composure. Then he related to what happened in his city the prior weekend.

That's when a methamphetamine lab exploded at a Days Inn motel on Saturday, injuring a 36-year-old man who, Thallemer explained, had a lengthy meth-related rap sheet. The blast was strong enough to "blow the toilet off the floor" while displacing the ceiling by four inches. A 22-year-old bystander was also injured when he attempted to put out the ensuing blaze.

By the time Warsaw police located the meth maker, his clothes and skin were smoldering and his hair, the mayor said, had been burned off his scalp. "We had to send the addict to a hospital Fort Wayne in a helicopter where he'll be for a long time," Thallemer said. "Who pays? The motel owner will pay. The hospital will pay."

The incident, Thallemer noted, became "just another story buried on page 5 in the Fort Wayne newspaper."

And that, my friends, is a scandal of passivity that needs to be immediately and effectively dealt with by Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana General Assembly. They have until April 29 to get this right.

The statistics are alarming. Indiana State Police busted a record 1,726 meth labs in 2012, up from 1,437 in 2011, another 1,104 in 2008 and 803 in 2006. That last figure was down from 1,137 meth labs in 2005 that prompted then-Gov. Mitch Daniels to press for limits in the purchase of over-the-counter cold medicines such as Sudafed and Nexafed, the key meth ingredient.

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