Margee Baldassarre of Homer listened attentively as police and other officials talked Tuesday night in the Cortland County Office Building auditorium about the dangers of methamphetamine in the community.
They explained how significant the problem is in the county, signs of meth production and use, and how to inform authorities of potential drug activity.
The issue is personal for Baldassarre. Her grandson is sitting in Cortland County Jail after his latest run-in with the law related to his drug problem, she said after the session.
“I’ve heard stories about this meth and I wanted to get some information about it,” she said. “I saw my grandson struggle. I feel bad.”
Baldassarre said she fears for his safety.
“When he’s in jail, I feel safer,” she said. “I want to see if there is help for him and to educate myself.”
Baldassarre noted that a friend’s son recently died of an overdose and she worries about her grandson.
“I hope I never get that phone call,” she said.
Officials and residents at Tuesday’s meeting spoke about the urgency for action.
About a third of the approximately 60 people at the meeting were local police and code enforcement officials, District Attorney Patrick Perfetti, city aldermen William Carpenter (D-5th Ward) and Adam Megivern (R-7th Ward) and representatives of the Cortland Area Communities That Care.
State police Senior Investigator Sean Kilpatrick lead the discussion, giving a presentation about meth that lasted about 80 minutes. He and others answered questions from the audience for nearly another hour, then he and other officials talked individually with residents.
“We have a good grasp on the drug, who’s doing the drug,” said Kilpatrick, who has spent the past 13 years in a state police division that responds to meth cases in the Southern Tier, including Cortland County.
Cortland County continues to have a significant problem with meth, he said, especially cases in which there are fires or explosions.
Meth-making has changed in recent years and now the drug is easy to produce, the ingredients are easy to acquire and transport, and the production process is very dangerous, Kilpatrick said.
The physical toll meth takes on users is horrendous, Kilpatrick said, showing photos of people who became disfigured. Many in the audience cringed or groaned when he displayed photos of people with “meth mouth,” or severe tooth decay caused by methamphetamine use.
“We are not going to prosecute our way out of the problem,” Perfetti said, emphasizing the importance of prevention and treatment.
“Drugs are ruining young lives,” said JoAnn Wickman, a board member of Cortland Area Communities that Care. She said the community has to get involved to find solutions and parents must repeatedly talk to their children about the dangers of drugs.
Baldassarre won’t give up on her grandson. Maybe some of what she learned Tuesday will help her help him.
“I pray that he can lick this,” she said.