Sunday, May 1, 2011

More on meth in Missouri

I've blogged a lot about meth in rural places, including in Missouri, this past year. The Missouri focus was driven largely by the attention I have given to the film "Winter's Bone," including here, here, here and here. Now, the New York Times reports today from Ellsinore, Missouri, population 373. The headline for A. J. Sulzberger's story is "Drugs in Ozarks Town Infects Even Sheriff's Department." Sulzberger tells the story of Tommy Adams, the man who was county sheriff for two years until his recent arrest for dealing in methamphetamine. Though the story details events leading up to Adams' arrest, the focus of the story is less the lawman-turned-bad theme than on the community's response. Sulzberger writes:
But in this long-struggling community in southeastern Missouri where distrust of law enforcement has always run deep, the story of a sheriff enabling the scourge he was supposed to fight has not provoked outrage. Rather, many local residents are accepting it, even sympathetically, as another disappointing chapter in what they see as a hopeless fight.

* * *
People recognize the symptoms of use in neighbors but, reflecting a culture of fierce independence, say nothing.

“We all know who does what, how they do it and when they do it,” said David Bowman, a school maintenance worker who is the mayor of Ellsinore. “You just turn your head and go on.”

Sulzberger notes that Missouri leads the nation in the number of meth labs discovered. "[T]hroughout the Ozarks," he writes, "the drug has metastasized."

Ellsinore is in Carter County, population 5,894, a persistent poverty county in southeast Missouri. Just two-thirds of residents have a high school diploma, and only 11% have a college degree. The poverty rate exceeds 25%. See more demographic information about the county here, all of which arguably helps explain why meth has such a strong hold there.


Chez Marta said...
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Chez Marta said...

Reading the last paragraph of this post, it occurred to me how often we associate higher income with higher education levels, which may be true of urban and suburban populations, but I believe this metric holds less true in rural areas, where jobs are scarce for even the most educated folks. No matter which university one went to, there probably isn't enough work for two lawyers, two doctors, more than five veterinarians, etc., in a "small place." The odds are high that if one gets a good education (by the luck of the draw, by the persistence of one's parents' or one's own determination, that person will not stay in the rural area to increase the statistical income level there. And this trend will continue, unless... unless one cares a whole lot (more) and works on repopulating the deserted countryside, primarily with diverse economic opportunities.