They fell into meth addiction and barely made it out.
A teenager with a perfect grade point average.
The daughter of a Carson City sheriff.
A one-time star athlete who ended up homeless in San Francisco.
They told their stories Wednesday night as part of the “Crystal Darkness” documentary, broadcast on Southern Nevada English- and Spanish-language television stations that united behind a public education effort to show the scope of damage wrought by methamphetamine use in Nevada.
From the now-imprisoned user who first tried meth at age 12, to family members who question why their loved ones would choose a bowl of meth over their own well-being, viewers glimpsed the drug crisis that Nevada first lady Dawn Gibbons has tackled as a personal cause.
“We have a problem,” said Gibbons, in Las Vegas to help launch the “Crystal Darkness” campaign in Southern Nevada. “We don’t have the luxury of ignoring it or letting it go.”
If the individual stories in the documentary don’t make the meth crisis real to people, Gibbons said, statistics from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services should. More than 90 percent of crimes committed in Nevada are meth-related, Gibbons said Wednesday. Surveys of Nevada’s youth show that more than 17 percent of high school juniors have used methamphetamine.
The airing of the documentary is the first step in raising awareness, Gibbons said.
The second step began the minute the documentary flashed Nevada’s 211 number on the screen at the close of the program. Almost immediately, Nevada 211 operators were inundated with calls asking for more information on meth, social services assistance or referrals to treatment programs.
Callers seeking drug treatment assistance were forwarded to a crisis call center at the Clark County Government Center, where addiction specialists and counselors could address their needs.
Katie Barmettler, coordinator for the Clark County School District’s Safe and Drug-free Schools program, took the first call. It was from a 43-year-old woman who’s now in recovery.
“She emphasized how the drug can overtake your life,” Barmettler said.
By 10 p.m., the center had received more than 247 calls.
Kirby Burgess, senior vice president of WestCare Nevada, said his organization set aside 20 beds for callers who might require inpatient services to overcome their meth addiction. WestCare, a nonprofit entity that serves low-income and indigent Nevadans, also provided counselors and addiction specialists to help callers responding to the documentary.
“We’re going to make our best effort to accommodate the folks who need it,” Burgess said. “We know that the issues that bring folks to us are multifaceted.”
If the 20 beds are insufficient, Burgess said, WestCare will work with other service providers to meet the need.
WestCare staff member Jerry Parks said his wife and two children watched the documentary at home while he worked the phone lines. The documentary highlights a drug that’s widely used in Clark County, he said. Parks performs the assessment and reception of adult females into WestCare programs. Roughly 70 percent of the indigent and low-income population he sees are meth users.
“People probably have a general idea of what methamphetamine is,” Parks said. “But I think this is going to raise the awareness of what a life-altering drug this is.”
Troy Martinez, pastor for the East Vegas Christian Center, helped coordinate the “Crystal Darkness” campaign in Southern Nevada. The religious community joined with other community groups to train speakers, provide informational booklets and supply drug-testing kits to parents.
Wednesday night, Martinez said churches organized 10 different sites where people could view the documentary together.
“The goal is to get children who have never tried meth to never try meth,” Martinez said. “The goal is get people who are using meth to stop.”
Callers unable to get through to the call center Wednesday night are encouraged to call 211 again. The phone line accepts calls from 8 a.m. to midnight. Information on speakers, programs or copies of the documentary can be found on www.crystaldarkness.com.