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Navajo Nation first lady assumes post on Arizona meth project advisory board

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Navajo Nation first lady Vikki Shirley has been seated as co-chair of the Arizona Meth Project Advisory Board.

Shirley attended her first meeting May 24 in Phoenix and was welcomed by co-chairs Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley. She had been invited to join the advisory board by Goddard.

Shirley's leadership will be used to help engage Arizona tribes to become involved in the project.

''I am honored to be asked by the attorney general to co-chair, and formally accept,'' she said. ''Meth use is on the rise in all of Arizona, but unfortunately the stats are higher on Navajo Nation. It is important to educate and get the word out.''

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. said the Navajo Nation was honored to have its first lady appointed to this vital advisory board to address the growing epidemic of methamphetamine use on the Navajo Nation and other Native nations.

''She will have a strong voice in advocating for all Native country to develop a comprehensive approach for addressing the problem of meth abuse,'' he said. ''A new strategy is required that includes prevention-education, interdiction and treatment. In order to effectively deal with the current drug abuse situation, our prevention-treatment programs must be integrated to collectively address all aspects of the problem.''

The first lady is now at work to plan the 2007 ''Meth ei Dooda'' Conference set for June 27 and 28, with a Tribal Leaders Summit June 29.

The Arizona Meth Project is modeled after the highly successful Montana Meth Project, which was implemented in August 2005 and received national media attention for its graphic depictions of the effects of using meth.

It is backed by $5.3 million for a mass media effort that launched in April primarily targeting junior and high school students, young adults ages 18 - 24 and parents.

''Meth destroys everything it touches and is closely connected with many types of crimes,'' Goddard said. ''This collaborative mass media prevention campaign targeting youth, young adults and parents is a first for Arizona. It will initiate parent-child conversations about meth and complement the efforts of anti-meth coalitions across the state already working to address this problem at the local level.''

To date, the 10 participating Arizona counties in the AMP include Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Maricopa, Mohave, Navajo, Pinal and Yuma, as well as funding from the Arizona Attorney General's Office and the Maricopa County General Fund.

Meth use has become epidemic on Native lands. In February 2005, the Navajo Nation Council voted 64 - 0 to make the use, possession, distribution and manufacture of meth illegal on the Navajo Nation.

In January 2004, the Navajo Nation Department of Behavioral Health began to see an increased number of agencies reporting the use of meth on the Navajo Nation. In March 2004, information about meth began to be distributed to all Navajo DBHS treatment centers.

The department employs 10 prevention specialists and two health educations.

It is the lead agency designated by the Navajo Nation Council to provide comprehensive alcohol and substance abuse prevention and education, treatment and aftercare services to Navajo individuals and their families.

According to the 2003 Navajo Youth Risk Behavioral Survey, some 15 percent of Navajo high school students reported using meth.

According to the 2006 Arizona Youth Survey, meth use among Arizona teens is 4.3 percent, al-most twice the national average.

Stapley noted the importance of results and of localization of the campaign.

''This campaign will be carefully measured for outcomes,'' he said. ''A survey will assess the awareness of the destructive effects of meth use before the campaign starts, then again after the second phase of advertising.''

For Navajo Nation information about meth and the June conference, call Char James at (928) 729-4470. For details on the Arizona Meth Project, visit www.arizonamethproject.org.