The Utah Meth Cops Project exists to treat law enforcement officers who have been repeatedly exposed to toxins in methamphetamine labs on the job. At its national conference this May, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) invited project spokesperson Vincent D'Onofrio and FLEOA members who've gone through the treatment program to speak at the conference and raise awareness.
Begun in 2007, the Utah Meth Cops Project offers free detoxification treatment to police officers at its facilities in Utah. The program was modeled after the Ground Zero Rescue Workers Detoxification Project that helped many first responders affected by 9/11 in New York City and is a part of the Heroes Health Project.
According to UtahDetox.org, officers in Utah who had busted hundreds of meth labs throughout their careers were experiencing a host of symptoms including frequent headaches, severe acid reflux and esophageal problems, loss of taste and smell, joint pain, insomnia, and depression. Most didn't know the cause, and many otherwise healthy officers have contracted terminal illnesses and died as a result of their exposure.
Detoxification through this program involves speeding up the body's metabolism with nutritional supplements and exercise, followed by sweating the toxins out in a sauna. Participants have experienced black paste coming out of their pores and crystals coming out of their tear ducts during this process.
Sandra Lucas, director of the Utah Meth Cops Project, attended the FLEOA conference and discussed its success rate. It has a 75 percent reduction in symptoms and an increase in quality of life that allows many participants to return to work. Previously fit officers who could barely walk because of breathing problems and other symptoms now lead normal lives.
Lucas worked with Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to spearhead the project and acquire grants and other funding to get it off the ground. She is currently working to expand the program and to raise additional funds so that no first responder will have to pay to get well.
Recognizing the importance of the Utah Meth Cops Project, actor Vincent D'Onofrio has become its spokesperson and is planning to write and produce a short film that will center on the topic to help get the word out. He has a special place in his heart for first responders.
"The man who raised me, my stepfather, was a firefighter," says D'Onofrio. "I was raised by a guy who was a regular guy but who put himself in harm's way. Because of that I considered him a hero."
Known for playing police detective Robert Goren on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" among other film and television roles, D'Onofrio seeks to use his face and name recognition to bring attention to the need for this project and funding to support it so he can help heroes just like his stepfather.
"These guys and girls don't whine, they don't ask for help, and they're not asking for it now when they really need it," says D'Onofrio. "I'd like to be the person who asks for them."
For more information about this program visit the Utah Meth Cops Project website.