TTU's BusinessMedia Center produces meth education toolkit

As the public health educator at the Putnam County Health Department, Jerrod Wright realized two years ago that he needed a comprehensive toolkit to help educate everyone about the dangers of methamphetamine.

That toolkit has come together in the form of the Meth=Death interactive CD- and DVD-ROM set released earlier this month and produced by Tennessee Tech University’s BusinessMedia Center, Putnam County Health Department, 13th Judicial District Drug Task Force and District Attorney General’s Office.

“Something that was once nothing is now a very valuable prevention tool in the effort to educate the public and immunize young people against the dangers of this deadly drug,” said District Attorney Bill Gibson.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive substance that’s been nicknamed “poor man’s cocaine” because it’s made cheaply from a combination of household chemicals and a common ingredient in many cold medicines.

It poses a danger not just to its users, whose personalities are often characterized by paranoid and sometimes even violent behavior, but also to anyone who comes in contact with the toxic residue that contaminates any environment where it has been “cooked.”

Meth=Death recognizes the pervasive impact of the drug by presenting specialized information to more than 20 specific audiences, including state and national leaders, sheriff’s and police departments, firefighters, health care providers, environmental workers, educators, parents and age-appropriate student curricula.

The CD- and DVD-ROM set contains more than 10 hours of information, educational games, a cartoon, and testimonials from former meth users, children removed from homes where it has been made and used, experts who’ve participated in raids, decontamination and clean-up efforts and more.

“Saying that this was a widespread community effort just doesn’t do justice to the number of people — from so many areas of expertise — who’ve embraced this project,” said Kevin Liska, director of TTU’s BusinessMedia Center.

Unveiled at a recent state conference about methamphetamine issues, Meth=Death has also been quickly embraced by a wide sector of the public. Nearly 3,000 copies have been distributed, and orders for about 600 more have been received.

An information session about how to use the CD- and DVD-ROM in classrooms was presented to several hundred Upper Cumberland educators and school administrators at TTU’s recent School Law Seminar.

TTU First Lady Gloria Bell and other members of her Leadership Putnam project team have also formed a group called Leaders Against Meth, and they hosted a recent dinner where the CD- and DVD-ROM toolkit was previewed to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, health care workers, clergy and other Upper Cumberland business leaders.

Special guests at the event were Sen. Charlotte Burks, Reps. Jere Hargrove and Charles Curtiss, District Attorney Bill Gibson and Bart Gordon representative Billy G. Smith.

“A follow-up from the dinner is a ‘train the trainer’ program, in which representatives from a different audience category each month will be coached about how their group can best use the tool,” Bell said.

Other members of LAM include Buffy Key of Cookeville Regional Medical Center, Jason Hodges of Blood Assurance, Paula Chaffin of Lazarus House Hospice and Danny Dyal of Budweiser of Cookeville.

Paula King, Putnam County’s Safe and Drug-Free Schools coordinator who presents a nine-week drug education program to third- and fifth-graders each year, says the versatility of the information presented on Meth=Death is one of its best features.

“Information is presented in a such a way that I can easily use what’s most appropriate for specific classrooms, maturity and experience levels and age groups,” she said.

In a classroom where one or more students have been removed from an environment where the drug has been present, for instance, the focus of her lesson would be different than it would be in a classroom whose students have no direct experience with methamphetamine.

“Different students will respond to different features, but Meth=Death is an excellent toolkit to prompt students to discuss a wide range of difficult topics,” King said. “It has the potential to significantly impact people’s lives, and that’s what prevention is really all about.”

For more information about the Meth=Death CD- and DVD-ROM set, visit www.metheducation.com.

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