CHADRON – Law enforcement officers, judicial representatives and school officials discussed the availability of drugs, and their negative effects as well as resources for treatment Wednesday during the annual Chadron State College Social Work (SW 435) conference.
The day-long conference in the Student Center included speakers, videos and panel discussions.
The opening speaker, Jay Dobyns, spoke about assignments where he infiltrated criminal organizations as an undercover Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agent.
“It’s a nasty, dirty, vomit-covered world. Drug dealers don’t value human life. They take what they want,” said Dobyns, who is now retired after 27 years with the ATF.
The former college football player at the University of Arizona said he didn’t have what it took to be in the NFL, so he joined the ATF.
“Don’t become jaded or lose sight of what you’re doing. Do your work for the greater good, make sacrifices to help others, not for the money. You will need to give up the world definition of success as being rich and famous to make a contribution that will make the world a better place. You’re not going to get trophies and handshakes,” Dobyns said.
Dobyns’ son Jack is a CSC criminal justice major and member of the football team, said a case where he was involved with Hells’ Angels case got the most publicity but it wasn’t his most important one.
After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Dobyns helped stop a plan he called “Oklahoma City, Part Two” to bomb three casinos in Las Vegas that potentially could have killed thousands.
“We (the ATF team) built the bombs they wanted but arrested them before they could use them,” he said.
Retirement was uncomfortable for Dobyns, who admitted his relationships were rocky, but that changed when a friend asked him to go to Africa to rescue orphans with Heartbeat of Africa.
“Everybody I had been around was on the hustle, on the take. It altered my view of the world. I wanted my parade after sacrifice and public service. I was bitter. But those babies changed my life. They saved me,” said Dobyns of his work in Africa.
Shelley Thomas, a forensic interviewer with CAPstone Child Advocacy in Gering, Nebraska, focused her presentation on methamphetamine, noting 75 percent of children she interviews are exposed to the drug in their homes.
She said Panhandle meth arrests have increased over the past three years and the amount of meth seized increased from 228 grams in 2012 to 5,500 grams in 2015.
Many of Thomas’ clients’ parents steal to get money, buy meth, use it and then repeat the pattern daily. She cited lost work productivity and increased traffic fatalities among adults and nutritional, emotional, social, medical and dental neglect among children as some of the vast array of negative effects of meth use.
“The children are awake all hours of day and night, strangers are coming and going, they are exposed to porn, and sexual abuse when their parents are either buzzed or crashed,” Thomas said. “Kids are taking care of themselves and younger siblings. Often, their utilities are disconnected, or they are evicted, living in cars or hotel rooms.”
Thomas called on CSC students to be mindful of the power of their examples.
“Remember, every move you take and word comes out of your mouth at the movie or the game, a kid is watching and thinks you are cool. Volunteer in a program to mentor a child. Those positive interactions may not be happening at home. A lot of children don’t have anybody building up their souls and their confidence,” Thomas said. “If somebody listens and they know somebody cares, they respond.”
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson compared the marketing campaign directed at young people by cigarette companies decades ago to sales techniques being used in Colorado and other states where marijuana is legalized.
“Marijuana is our number one problem. It is cigarettes 2.0,” he said. “If you feel big tobacco deceived consumers by not disclosing the risks of their product, the marijuana industry is doing the exact same thing now with products like candy.”
At a conference of western attorney generals several years ago, Peterson said attorneys and other members of the expert panel were saying to the governors, “Get over it. You can’t stop it.”
Within months, he learned that the panel members had changed their stances.
“They admitted they were not prepared for it, that it got ahead of them and that bad actors are a bigger problem than they anticipated,” Peterson said.
Peterson shed doubt of the legitimacy of medical cards for marijuana by pointing out that five doctors prescribe over 50 percent of medical marijuana in Colorado.
While touring a marijuana outlet in Colorado with a colleague, Peterson spoke to an employee who bragged about the 28.8 percent potency of the latest designer plant which won the Cannabis Cup Contest.
“Potency is everything,” Peterson said citing studies showing the damaging effects of marijuana even with 10-15 percent potency.
Peterson also discussed heroin and prescription opioids abuse and their proper disposal.
“We need a three-pronged strategy including prevention, law enforcement and treatment,” Peterson said
During a law enforcement panel, officers discussed new methods youth have invented including pouring vodka in their eyes, snorting bourbon and inhaling alcohol fumes poured over dry ice. Retired Nebraska State Patrol officer Chuck Elley said more women are raped under the influence of alcohol than all other drugs combined.
Retired Nebraska Army National Guard Colonel Tom Brewer shared slides of missions he led in Afghanistan to prevent production and exportation of heroin. He said 94 percent of the world’s heroin is produced in Afghanistan. He said his team burned 28 tons of heroin a week during one period.
He noted drugs and alcohol are both problems on the reservations north of Chadron and encouraged audience members to volunteer with youth so they can see good examples of healthy lives.
The final panel discussion addressed drug court, treatment options, drug testing, school programs and their varying degrees of effectiveness in helping addicts and their families.
—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator