Today, I spoke with Marilyn Smashey who lost her son to heroin in 2009.
Her son, Taylor Green, was just 18 when he died in his bedroom on December 5, 2009. Smashey emphasized that the state as a whole needs to be much more aware of heroin use.
With almost 300 deaths due to heroin already this year, the state knows that heroin is going to be a drug that will be hard to stop.
The St. Louis Director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Dan Duncan, says that heroin is not only becoming more popular in Missouri, but is also being sold in different forms.
"They had the drug processed in a different way, in a powder form," Duncan said.
The powder form allows teens to snort the drug as opposed to using a needle to inject the drug directly into the bloodstream.
The powder form is dangerously potent and strong enough to kill a first time user. The drug is also extremely addictive.
Smashey, along with other parents of children that died from a heroin overdose, plans to educate the children and parents of Missouri about how dangerous the drug can be. She says that people need to be aware that the drug is out there and easy to obtain.
"With heroin, either you're going to be addicted or you're going to be dead," Smashey said.
Just six months after a tornado destroyed Joplin, the rebuilding process has started to show signs of progress.
Of the 7,500 damaged homes, nearly half have filed building permits for repairs and construction is underway.
Public Information Officer, Lynn Onstot, says the town does not look like it once did, but clearly progress is being made.
"The skyline still looks bleak in places, but then again, you see houses cropping up, you see whole neighborhoods coming back together," Onstot said. "It's just a very exciting time to see the community pulling together and rebuilding."
Onstot says that most of the 3,600 homes that have filed for building permits will need repairs of over $100,000.
While there is still much work to be done, the city of Joplin as a whole is showing that they are moving in the right direction with rebuilding.
Onstot says that almost 90,000 volunteers came to Joplin over the last six months to help rebuild in any way they could.
"It's just amazing to me how everyone has pulled together, but that's the Midwest spirit," Onstot said.
Progress will continue to be made daily until Joplin is built up back to how it used to be.
The House Interim Committee on Criminal Justice continues to look into ways to improve sexual offender registration processes.
The committee listened to testimony on Thursday from a variety of sources, including family members of those who are required to register as sex offenders for life.
The biggest issue concerning the committee is the length of time that a person is required to register themselves as a sex offender. If someone commits an act of sexual misconduct when they are a minor, they are many times still required to register as a sex offender for the rest of their life.
Committee Chairman, Rodney Schad, says the main goal is to protect all Missourians from sexual misconduct.
"We want to realize how much of this is going on, and of course, then we want to see if there is a solution," Schad said.
The committee will continue to meet up until next January's session, when they hope to have a bill ready to be submitted to the House.
Heroin has emerged as one of the most popular new drugs in the state of Missouri.
As police have cracked down on methamphetamines and pain pills, drug dealers have turned to other drugs, like heroin, to make money.
Heroin comes from poppy seed plants that grow most commonly in the Middle East and southeast Asia. When heroin is brought to the United States, it is usually in it's purest form.
Once the drug dealers in the United States get their hands on the drugs, they cut the 80-90 percent potency down to about 15-20 percent, allowing them to sell more. In Missouri, heroin is being sold in balloons and pill capsules for as little as $10 per dose.
The Poplar Bluff Police Department has now seen about 20 cases of heroin usage in the last couple of years.
Poplar Bluff Detective, Corey Mitchell, says that the heroin is so potent that it can kill any first time user in seconds. Mitchell also says that the withdrawals that come after the high on heroin are violent, and cause drug users to use the drug again to combat the withdrawals.
"The withdrawals start coming in: the shaking, the convulsions, the vomiting. A violent withdrawal and that's why they're going to be needing more and more so they don't have to go through the withdrawals," Mitchell said.
Mitchell says the most important thing now is to make the public aware of what is happening so that parents can intervene.
Mitchell says that teens are now snorting the drug as opposed to "shooting up" with a needle. This allows for a younger population to test out heroin as they do not have to purchase needles.
The Poplar Bluff Police Department plans to reach out to other police forces in the state to crack down on what is becoming a major heroin problem.
I intend on turning this story into a feature story in the near future, so much more to come on heroin in Missouri.
Today, the House passed a constitutional amendment that would require a tax credit review every four years. This was the House's attempt to compromise with the Senate about the sunsets that they want in any legislation that would possibly pass.
However, there is no reason to believe that the Senate is going to respond in a positive manner because their leader says that no legislation will pass the Senate without sunsets. Senate President Pro Tem, Rob Mayer, is not going to budge on his stance.
Speaker of the House, Steve Tilley, says that the House has done all that they can, but at the end of the day, the Senate is just not willing to work with them. Tilley says if the Senate does not want to conference with the House, then it is clear that they have no intention of getting anything done during the special session.
With just 15 days left of the special session, it is starting to look more and more likely that nothing will be accomplished during the 60 day session.
House Bill 73 authorizes the Missouri Department of Social Services to develop a program to screen certain welfare recipients or applicants for possible illegal drug use.
On Thursday, I looked into what sort of progress was made in regards to this bill since it was signed by the governor on July 12.
The Director of Communications at the Missouri Department of Social Services, Seth Bundy, refused to do an in person interview with KMOX, saying he preferred to communicate with us over e-mail at this point. His e-mails were short and concise to say the least. His responses to our questions were extremely vague and did not provide us with much information.
Here is a portion of the e-mail conversation that I had with Bundy:
What kept coming to mind were the comments made by Senator Rob Schaaf, the Senate's only active physician. Schaaf compared this special session to a cancer patient on their death bed and said that the senators keeping it alive were like the patient's family that couldn't part ways with someone that was sure to die.
The more I think of it, the better the comparison seems. There have been few days where I have been in the Capitol building where I heard much confidence or even passion about passing the China Hub bill.
While it is possible that every Tuesday and Thursday just happened to be "off-days" for the General Assembly, I think it is much more likely that Schaaf was right from the start.
Today, Senate President Pro-Tem, Rob Mayer, said that there is no chance of a bill being passed without sunset termination dates included. The bill that the House has passed on to the Senate does not have these dates. Again, not much hope was displayed for this "dying" bill.
The House and Senate will meet on Monday in efforts to fix their differences.
Perhaps it is time for the family to "pull the plug" like Dr. Schaaf suggested weeks ago.
Today was an incredible learning day in the newsroom. The News Director at CBS St. Louis, John Butler, came into the newsroom today to talk with our staff about ways to improve our story quality.
Butler and Phill talked with us about the importance of our sound quality when making a radio story. We listened to many of the stories that we created with them, and listened to their constructive criticisms. Both Butler and Phill said that we are better off not using a sound bite than putting in a bad one.
Butler stressed the importance for us to post our stories on Facebook, Twitter, and our blogs to make sure that people have access to them. He also encouraged us to take pictures at all events that we cover in the Capitol to add to our stories.
Butler's appearance in the newsroom really drove home the fact that we are working for CBS here at MDN. We need to all act like the professionals that we are, no exceptions.
After Butler left for the day, I got to work on my story for the day. I covered the name change to the China hub bill, which is now being called the Missouri Export Act.
The name change represents an attempt to keep the bill alive. The goal is to create legislation that will create tax incentives for a China cargo hub at St. Louis' International Airport.
I spoke with Republican Representative John Diehl about the change. Diehl said that despite the new name, he still does not see a bill being passed during the special session.
Diehl says the bill is in "serious jeopardy."
A day full of learning and working. Things continued to make more sense in the newsroom as every hour goes by.
I went back to work on my crime beat on Tuesday at the capitol building, focusing on a story about police misconduct cases.
I called dozens of police stations across the state of Missouri to determine if there was actually an increase in police misconduct during arrest procedures, or if there are simply more news stories out there regarding the issue. However, none of the police chiefs were available for comment today, which left me in a tough situation.
I decided to call civil rights attorneys in the state of Missouri to see if they have dealt with more cases regarding police brutality lately. I spoke with Steve Ryals of St. Louis and Gonzalo Fernandez, also of St. Louis. They both told me that there is not a clear increase in police misconduct cases, but more so that there is a "heightened sensitivity" on the issue.
I also researched the details of a couple of different police brutality cases. In one, a man was maced by police officers upon his arrest. The man died in the back seat of the patrol car, and homicide officers are looking into the case to see if the death could have resulted from police brutalities.
Another case was about a Columbia police officer that was fired after violently shoving a detained man in a jail cell. The man was calling for water when the officer busted into the cell pushing the man to the ground, where his head smashed against the concrete, drawing blood.
What I took away from the story most was the difficulties in regulating police conduct, and the tough decisions that police officers have to make when dealing with suspects.
I will be back Thursday, and am planning on looking deeper into a heroin drug bust that took place today. 50 people were placed under arrest in a heroin drug trafficking incident. Heroin is becoming more and more prevalent in Missouri, and officials have started to respond.
Because the special session has been put on hold until Wednesday, Jesse and I worked on our crime beat today. Upon our arrival to the newsroom this morning, we were told that there was not much going on today, and were encouraged to look for our own stories.
With the help of another colleague and the AP Newswire, we found a story about a kindergarten boy that brought his mother's crack pipe and drugs to school for a day of show and tell.
We read multiple stories about the situation that helped us gain knowledge of what had occurred. We then called the Chief of Police in Sweet Springs, Missouri, Richard Downing, and spoke with him about the issue. He gave us some information that we did not have before and helped us understand what exactly their involvement was.
We then called the superintendent of the Sweet Springs school district, Donna Wright, and spoke with her about the drugs being brought to school. She let us know her concern for the boy and how important it would be to keep the boy's name confidential. She also told us that nothing like this had ever occurred in Sweet Springs before, and she was concerned about outsiders making negative judgments on their town based on the situation.
This story offered us the opportunity to get back in with our crime beat.
Thursday, we will return to our reporting on the special session.
I spent most of my Tuesday in a committee hearing where representatives discussed ways to improve Missouri's 911 emergency procedures.
The hearing started with the President of Missouri's 911 Director's Association, Lisa Schlottach, talking with Tennessee's Executive Director of Emergency Communications, Lynn Questell, about how effective Tennessee's 911 procedures are.
Questell talked to the committee about what she and other representatives did in Tennessee to improve. She talked about other ways to communicate with 911 other than a simple phone call. She suggested that text messaging to 911 might be a good idea for the future.
The committee did not seem to have a big sense of urgency to get a bill proposed. The meeting was very informal and many believe that there will not be a discussion regarding the issue in the Senate until Spring of 2013.
Missouri has faced issues with it's 911 emergency systems, and it needs to be fixed as soon as possible for the safety of Missouri citizens. Schlottach says she is determined to get discussion around the issue to escalate in the near future.
On Wednesday, the House and Senate agreed to adjourn and reconvene next Wednesday at 2 PM to give everyone the opportunity to learn more about proposed bills. The China hub bill seems to be in trouble at the moment.
Meanwhile Missouri tax payers are paying $25,000 per day to the Senators during the special session.
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