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January 18, 2006 -- Today the New York Times ran Kate Zernike's story about the "sharp increase" in methamphetamine-related cases that is straining emergency rooms across the U.S. The piece is a remarkable one for the Times in that it relies on quotes from Iowa ED nurse manager Jeri Reese to explain the burden the cases put on hospitals. Reese was also set to speak at a news conference explaining the results of two new studies that document the growth in meth. cases. We commend Ms. Zernike and the Times, and Ms. Reese for speaking up about important care issues, which shows the public that nurses are health care experts.

The story is headlined "Hospitals Say Meth Cases Are Rising, And Hurt Care." It explains that the two studies being released today, done last year by the National Association of Counties, show the toll methamphetamine has taken on hospital budgets and treatment facilities. The problem is particularly acute in the Midwest and "in rural areas where social service networks are ill-equipped to deal with the consequences." The story notes that because of the devastating effects of methamphetamine abuse, users often can't hold jobs and are uninsured. Reese, who works in Greene County, Iowa (the story does not say exactly where), is quoted as saying: ''These are labor-intensive cases, and the money that's put out is money that the hospitals won't recover." The piece explains that the drug often make users aggressive and paranoid, so the hospitals must deal with the aftermath of violence. Reese is quoted again on methamphetamine patients: "They're so unpredictable and erratic that when someone comes in, you have to have separate staff just to watch them." Methamphetamine is now the leading drug problem in US emergency departments, and local officials are pushing for more federal attention, including more funding for affected hospitals and treatment programs.

We thank Ms. Zernike, the New York Times, and Ms. Reese for helping to improve public understanding of nursing.

See the article by Kate Zernike: "Hospitals Say Meth Cases Are Rising, And Hurt Care" from the January 18, 2006 edition of the New York Times.


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