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McDonald honored for ‘Don’t Meth With Me’ message to local youth



The Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce will honor Blair McDonald with a Community Service Award on Jan. 31 for his work in launching the Don’t Meth With Me program designed to educate youth about the dangers of experimenting with methamphetamines and arming them with ways to tell peers and adults, “I am the future, don’t meth with me!” McDonald earned a Ph.D. in industrial psychology at the University of Utah and has taught at the University of Michigan and the University of Houston-Clear Lake. He served in the Army Reserve and was stationed at the Army Intelligence Training School at Fort George Meade in Maryland. McDonald has managed stress research for the U. S. government and done survey research for General Motors. As a consultant he worked for a number of Fortune 500 companies. He managed a petroleum organization and managed the training, research and consulting functions of a major productivity firm. His clients have included bands, auto companies, colleges and universities, oil and chemical companies, construction companies and unions. But since he opted for semi-retirement in Livingston, McDonald has been really busy. As a member of the Livingston Rotary Club, McDonald quickly advanced to become a Paul Harris Fellow. He has been an active part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program. Last year, he and his wife Ann hosted an exchange student from Spain and this year they are one of the host parents for a student from Japan. But Blair’s pet project is Don’t Meth With Me. It all began when he read an article about a similar program in The Rotarian magazine in New Mexico. The program, launched as part of a massive law enforcement effort to combat meth addiction, helped give youngsters tools to reject offers of this awful drug when it was offered. Even in his earliest research, McDonald learned that right here in Polk County children in early elementary grades — even those who live in what most of us consider to be “good” homes — have already heard about meth. Most of these children have a friend who is caring for their brothers and sisters while their parents are high for days at a time; and those same children will be the one preparing the meals and washing the clothes while the adults in the house go through the inevitable crash that follows that high. In the first year, Don’t Meth With Me volunteers presented their educational program to all 5th and 6th-graders in Polk County — an estimated 1,100 students. The program shows students the ingredients used to make meth — items like lye, starter fluid, drain cleaner, lithium batteries, brake fluid, rubbing alcohol, ammonia, nail polish remover, camp stove fuel, lighter fluid, pain thinner, ether, rubbing alcohol and cold remedies. The presenter asks a student volunteer to put on some of the personal protective gear that law enforcement officers wear when they raid a meth lab. Students see photos of local sheriff’s deputies removing a mobile meth lab from a car at a familiar location in some of presentations. The presenters ask the student volunteer to read the warning labels on the ingredients — students then see just how difficult it is to work while wearing the bulky suit and mask, goggles and gloves. “Would you drink that?” — NO! the student audience screams back. That lays the first brick gets laid in building a wall between local youth and their would-be meth dealer. Oftentimes that dealer may be their own parent. If you’re not convinced by the fear of punishment or the horrible ingredients, Don’t Meth With Me has a few other facts for you. Deputy Bret King began to notice while working in the Classification Dept. of the Corrections Division at Mulnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon just how horribly disfigured the appearance of meth users became in a very short period of time. He began collecting the mugshots and interviewing people about their drug use with the goal of developing a reality-based program for youth to deter drug use. A few of King’s photos are used in the Don’t With Me presentation. You can view the whole collection at www.facesofmeth.us. Meth users quickly develop horrible skin sores because their degenerating nerve endings give them the sensation that there are “bugs” under their skin. Their dry mouth causes their teeth to rot out and the sores spread to the lining of their mouth.They frequently pull their hair so it too becomes patchy or missing. Students are also told about the more serious long term health impacts beyond appearance. They see a brain scan of a meth user showing the holes caused by years of use. That damaged area often affects opiate receptor sites. In a nutshell, if you ever come to the hospital in serious pain for any reason — for instance, if your meth lab explodes, or you are in a car wreck, there is no pain medicine on earth that will alleviate your agony. You will have burnt out the part of your brain that in affects. Now in its third year, Don’t Meth With Me is branching out to surrounding communities. This week, directors met with the Cleveland Rotary Club and its sponsor which will bring the program to students in that area. Presentations have been given to Lufkin, Conroe, LaMarque and Porter and expansion efforts in those areas are in various stages of development. The program gets some support from Rotary International at the District level which helps fund T-shirts and armbands for every student. The bulk of the program is supported by the Livingston Rotary Club and small fund-raising projects by the Don’t Meth With Group. One of those efforts is selling refreshments at the Free Family Movie Night at Pedigo Park held March through October, another initiative McDonald copied from Leander. He also acts as coordinator for the Livingston Rotary Club’s Senior Meal Program at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Livingston Rotary Club partners with Brookshire Bros. Deli to provide meals to seniors who have little access to a good nutritious meal. McDonald said the project was brought to his attention by the deli manager Dixie when she mentioned how many of her regular customers would come in on the holiday and try to split a meal for one person. He asked her how much a holiday meal cost and Rotary members passed the hat. This year Rotarians contributed more than $700 for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. “It’s a good, simple little program,” McDonald said. “It’s no work at all.”


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