FAIRFIELD — In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, an average of five people a day have been arrested by local police or sheriff’s deputies and booked into the Solano County jail for possessing or using drugs. It is often methamphetamine.
Bill Haden is the executive director of the A.K. Bean Foundation. With drug treatment and counseling centers in Fairfield and Vallejo, Haden and his co-workers are up close and personal witnesses to the damage that meth does to users and to the community.
Over the years, Haden has seen plenty of Fairfield’s meth addicts and other substance abusers. His work in local substance abuse treatment programs spans three decades.
About a third of the A.K. Bean Foundation’s clientele who have been arrested for drug-related crimes are there because of methamphetamine crimes.
One of A.K. Bean’s clients, who asked not to be identified, has been using meth since 1983, a year after he graduated from Armijo High School. Between streaks of being clean and being locked up, the client has spent the past 20 years using meth – typically daily – while living in Fairfield.
The 47-year-old client describes the evolution of meth addiction in Fairfield as paralleling the economy.
“All my friend’s in the 90s – everyone worked and everyone used,” the client said. “Since the late 2000s, nobody has any money. Now if they’re in the meth community, they’re broken down, they’re going to be stealing. Nowadays, if meth users go to a meeting, something’s going to be stolen. They visit your house, something’s going to go missing.”
“Back in the ’80s, meth use was more like an event. These days it’s become more gritty.”
Haden and his client agree a big impact of meth on the local community in recent years is addiction underwritten by thievery, including addicts driving around in pickup trucks late at night looking for scrap metal.
“They’ll steal drain grates off the streets, rip metal plates and covers off of equipment and take any copper wiring they can get their hands on to sell for meth,” Haden said. “You go to north Richmond any weekend and you see all these trucks lined up full of scrap metal.”
“I describe it as industrial terrorism fueled by meth,” Haden said. “Guys will rip off anything they think they can sell to a scrap metal yard. Schools, libraries, any public facilities around here are being hit hard by guys stealing piping or copper or anything they think might be valuable.”
The A.K. Bean offices in Vallejo have had rooftop air conditioners stolen, not once but twice, and now their offices have alarms linked to stress sensors on the roof.
“An alarm may not get a quick police response sometimes, but for somebody on meth it’s going to scare them away,” Haden said, adding that he has no doubt the costly thefts were fueled by meth addiction.
The personal toll A.K. Bean employees see among meth clients is also pretty ugly.
“If you see young men out on the streets (of some area towns) walking around with a bad gait, there’s a good chance that’s because of a stroke caused by meth use,” Haden said. “Meth cuts the production of saliva, so the bacteria rots your teeth and gums.
“Some of our cases are the result of (Child Protective Services) referrals. Homes not being kept and children left unsupervised,” Haden said, adding that the damage of meth to innocent children can begin before birth. “Lately I’ve seen mothers whose meth use when they were pregnant did something – I’m not a doctor – that constricted blood flow to the baby, so you get children being born without parts of their limbs: Missing a hand or a foot.”
While meth addiction has been around for a generation, there’s been a growing trend of people getting in trouble with prescription medicines, according to Haden.
“The vicodin, oxycontin, other painkillers and even methadone,” he said. “You get caught with a pill bottle and that’s not your name on the bottle then you are in a lot of trouble.”
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.