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Meth addiction takes toll on South Dakota women

Statistics from the state Attorney General’s Office reveal that the methamphetamine epidemic has worsened in recent years.

In 2017, a total of 3,390 people were arrested on meth-related crimes in South Dakota compared to 467 in 2002, an increase of 625 percent during that 15-year period.

Reports also show that the powerful addictive nature of meth does not discriminate by age, gender, ethnicity or income level.

Meth has shown to be a significant driver of the population of women in prison, whose numbers have increased by 35 percent over the past five years. In South Dakota, 64 percent of women in prison are there for drug-related crimes, compared to 27 percent of men.

A growing body of research also indicates that women use and react to meth differently than men, often with more dangerous consequences.

A review of numerous studies by Northeast Ohio Medical University researchers revealed that women tend to fall into meth use earlier in life. They become more dependent on the drug, are more likely to make meth their drug of choice, and are more likely to suffer depression as a result of meth use.

A recent study by the University of Colorado indicated that long-range meth use by women causes a loss of more brain function and so-called “gray matter” than among men who use meth.

However, several studies have shown that women are more capable of quitting meth and show a stronger response to treatment.

To examine the issue from a personal angle, South Dakota News Watch found five South Dakota women willing to share their stories of meth addiction. Two were interviewed in prison, one is on parole, and two are years beyond their last use and are now working in treatment or prevention.

Most share common characteristics: experiencing significant emotional trauma early in life; a pattern of use, treatment and relapse; loss of employment and education; and withdrawal from family relationships with a particularly devastating impact on their children. This is one woman's story.

Donelle Goings

Donelle Goings has three children she hardly knows, another who was born two days after Goings got out of prison and another who came into the world while Goings was behind bars.

“I got to hold her for 15 minutes and then they took her to the nursery and sent me right back to the prison,” Goings, 42, recalled in a recent interview at the women’s prison in Pierre. “It was heartbreaking.”

Goings was in prison on a drug charge in Colorado at the time. It was one of a number of times she has been sent to prison, let out for a second, third or fourth chance to do right, and then sent back after violating probation or breaking more laws.

Like many women in prison for drugs, the downward spiral for Goings began before adulthood. Goings was born to parents who she said were both alcoholics.

Goings began using cocaine at 14 and soon dropped out of high school. She remembers seeing billboards warning people not to use methamphetamines and telling herself, “I never want to be like them.” But then she tried meth once, “and the first time I did it, it was very addicting.”

At 18, she left her family and moved to Denver, where she started a relationship with a man who dealt cocaine and had three children. In 2000, she was arrested and sent to prison for four years on drug charges. She lost custody of her children. Her son and two daughters were adopted out and are now adults living stable lives in the Midwest, Goings said.

“I talk to my oldest kids but they don’t really know me and I really don’t know them,” she said. “I feel like I let them down and I feel guilty for not being there for them.”

Losing custody of her children fueled Goings’ use of meth. “After losing my first three children, I felt like a failure and it intensified my drug use to numb my feelings and not care about anything,” she said.

While in prison in Colorado, Goings was released on probation before her term was up, but she re-offended.

In one instance when she violated probation in 2003 and was returned to prison, she was pregnant and didn’t know it. While serving her sentence, she gave birth and was separated from her daughter after just a few minutes. Later, after another release and brief re-imprisonment, Goings delivered her youngest daughter just two days after being released

“When I got pregnant with my fourth and fifth daughters, I felt like God was giving me another chance to be a mother, and I wanted to make the right choices,” Goings said.

She moved to South Dakota and was sober for six years. But she eventually entered a romantic relationship with a Sioux Falls man who sold drugs. The relationship drew her back into the lifestyle and provided Goings a steady supply of cocaine that she would trade for meth to inject intravenously.

She ended that relationship and moved to Rapid City to undergo treatment, get clean and live with her grandmother. But she just couldn’t kick meth and fell into a crowd of chronic addicts.

In Rapid City, her youngest daughter lived with Goings’ grandmother, who was sick with cancer but still cared for her great-granddaughter while Goings was out binging on meth. Her daughter would sometimes wait up until 3 a.m. for her mother to come home.

“The drug is very addicting and I wasn’t thinking about anyone but myself,” Goings said. “I know that I took advantage of my grandmother, my dying grandmother, that she would be there. It hurts that I didn’t think about her health or anything else.”

In 2014, Goings was caught by state police in a motel room where drugs were present and a month later in a vehicle where pills were found. She tested positive for drugs both times and was charged with felony ingestion, drawing two concurrent 5-year prison terms.

In 2017, she was let out early and lived in a halfway house in Sioux Falls, but violated probation and became an escapee by fleeing to Rapid City to see her ailing grandmother. Once caught, she was ordered to serve out the rest of her sentence and will be eligible for release in October 2019.

While discussing her past, Goings is pensive and remorseful. She takes full responsibility for her actions and poor decisions. This term, she got lucky and was accepted as an employee of Badlands Quilting, a private industry located in the prison that pays her minimum wage to sew and assemble star quilts in a small workroom.

Upon release, she hopes to rebuild relationships with all her children — the three adults in the Midwest, her 15-year-old daughter who lives with her godparents and her 14-year-old daughter who lives with her father, both in Colorado.

She wants to move out of state and start anew, hopefully using a prison parenting class and her experience making star quilts to begin a sober and productive life.

But given her track record of backsliding, and the incredibly addictive power of meth, she is holding off making any promises to anyone, including herself.

“My actions will speak louder than my words because I’ve said so much in the past and let them down,” Goings said of her children. “I have to deal with my addiction on my own, and if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it and if I’m not, I’m not.”

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Fund boosts businesses big and small
Rapid City fund invests millions in local businesses

A little-known taxpayer-backed fund has been awarding millions of dollars to local companies since 2006 in the name of economic development, including $2 million to Cabela's from 2007 to 2009 and $500,000 to Black Hills Corp. in 2015.

But while those grants can be the difference between keeping or losing a large business with a big financial impact, smaller grants like a $15,000 award to Lost Cabin Beer Co. in 2015 and another $15,000 in 2018 can be the difference between a success story or shuttered storefront.

“We started and still run with a pretty shoestring budget and this (2015 grant) allowed us a little breathing room to bring on some additional staff that we otherwise might not have been able to,” said Jesse Scheitler, co-founder of Lost Cabin. “It was very valuable to Lost Cabin.”

The 2018 grant may have an even larger impact to Lost Cabin’s future. Per the grant’s conditions, the award is contingent on the acquisition of a property at 1402 West Rapid St., just south of its current location. But Scheitler played things close to the vest when asked whether the funds would lead to an expansion.

“We always have a couple tricks up our sleeve, but we definitely look forward to growing our business in a sustainable way because of the tremendous amount of local support we have received,” Scheitler said.

As for the larger grants, Ben Snow, who helped administer the fund for the past nine years, said they have been invaluable. Snow, president of the Rapid City Economic Development Partnership for nine years before stepping down at the end of October, only wishes the fund had more money.

“It’s a way to capture opportunities,” Snow said of the fund, invoking its official name as the Opportunity Capture Fund.

The fund, he said, allows the city to offer incentives to new companies considering a move here or existing companies considering an expansion or relocation in Rapid City or nearby.

“We’re not just going to give away the ranch for any company, but there is a reality,” Snow said. “This is a competitive environment. So, we want to do something to show good faith."

Follow the money

The fund traces its origins back to 2005, when it first applied for Vision Fund dollars to capitalize the program. Between 2006 and 2010, the city infused $3.7 million of Vision Fund dollars into the opportunity fund. Over the next five-year Vision Fund period from 2011 to 2015, another $1.5 million was awarded before a final $1 million award was handed down in 2014 and 2015. As it stands, the fund has about $1.15 million remaining, assuming the proposed 2018 awards are ultimately made.

In 2006, the fund’s first grant was $350,000 to the city’s innovation and entrepreneurship incubator. From 2007 to 2011, Northrup Grumman ($100,000), Caterpillar ($199,000), Cabela’s ($2 million) and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology ($623,000) received more than $2.9 million combined.

Since then, the largest grants include 2012 awards of $155,250 to Ditech Financial (formerly Green Tree Servicing) and $195,000 to WL Plastics, a polyethylene pipe manufacturer, $500,000 to Black Hills Corp. in 2015, $157,500 to Synchrony Financial in 2016, and 2017 awards of $250,000 to modular home builder Best Gen Modular and $300,000 to medical technology firm Immutrix Therapeutics.

Wages and investment

The grants are far from random, Snow said. Before money was awarded, a company’s application was vetted by Snow, a city committee tied to the fund, and the Rapid City Council. If a company fails to meet the conditions set in the grant, the award turns into a loan. The biggest condition, Snow said, is high-wage job creation.

“A job is not just a job for us,” Snow said. “It has to be a higher quality. It has to have benefits. It has to have pay that’s higher than what the average is. We just tell the companies ‘show us what your payroll looks like. What are these levels of jobs you have?’”

Five years ago, Snow said, the economic development partnership conducted a study to determine the average wage for certain industries. Average wages were measured and high-wage industries were identified. Snow said the typical award is about $200 per job created in low- and average-wage brackets and up to $1,500 per job when the wages are well above average. Applications from companies include how many jobs they expect to create and for how long. If they fail to meet those forecasts, the city can void the grant and turn it into a loan.

“We want to give more credit because there’s a higher return on investment for those higher-wage jobs,” Snow said.

In the case of Black Hills Corp., the application cited the potential for creating 125 new jobs with an average salary of $72,000. Providing over $500,000 to help ensure Black Hills Corp. built their headquarters in Rapid City — a tax increment financing district also helped offset construction costs — was a small price to pay, Snow said.

“It doesn’t matter who the company is,” he said. “It matters what kind of activity we’re incentivizing.”

The possibility of Black Hills Corp. building its headquarters elsewhere had to be considered, Snow said.

“I wish we could have done more, candidly,” he said. “Because if you are going to look at it proportionately, we probably didn’t do enough if you’re looking at a fairness model. And I’ll go toe-to-toe with anybody on that because I’ve got the data to back it up as to why the return on investment for that is actually better than what some of the other ones are. It’s a world-class headquarters. That headquarters doesn’t have to be in Rapid City. It could be in Denver. It could be in Omaha. It could be anywhere where Black Hills Energy’s Board of Directors wants it to be.”

The Black Hills Corp. project also highlights another large factor Snow and others consider from applicants: capital investment and a commitment to the area.

“We’re interested in how deep a root is this company planting in our community,” Snow said. “That gives us more assurance they’re going to be here longer.”

The fund's future

With just over $1 million left in the fund’s account, the time will soon come when another request from the city’s Vision Fund is needed. The economic development partnership did not apply for an award from the Vision Fund for its current 2018 to 2021 cycle. But an application in 2021 would seem likely if the fund’s existence is to continue.

“In three years, I would expect whoever the economic development powers that be in Rapid City that they go in and push to keep it going,” Snow said, noting that without it, the city will “lose one of those tools out of our box.”

But speaking just days before he was to step down as president — he is looking to move due to personal reasons but will stay in economic development work — Snow sounded confident that if an argument needs to be made for the fund’s future, the results will back it up.

“There are a lot of good things to reflect on as to how well Rapid City is positioned and poised for future growth,” he said, pointing toward the record city building permit valuations over the past few years, as well as the city’s innovation campus, new arena project at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, County Care Campus and the proposed One Heart Center under development by Rapid City Collective Impact.

“I think we’ve left Rapid City in a strong position."

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A Cancer Story: A date with destiny

Editor’s note: This is the ninth in a series of columns by former Journal columnist David Rooks, who is now getting treatment for esophageal cancer.

Last Wednesday, the 14th, in a small windowless room, my surgeon, Dr. David Fromm, went through our scheduled consult. Our esophageal surgery now has a date and time: Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, 7 a.m.

Dr. Fromm spoke with dispassionate concision, mapping the options and their various pros and cons. That part of me that admires clear-cut competence and fact-driven logic was serene; if there is cause for worry — and there is — I am at least in capable hands.

As is their subversive habit, my thoughts drifted. I saw myself as a young bomber pilot in a '50s war movie, attending a flight briefing before strapping myself into a metal fatigued B17 Stratofortress on its 50th sortie over Germany. Our mission holds little hope for returning home to our bomb-pocked airfield in the south of England.

At consult's close, Dr. Fromm seemed satisfied I’d transitioned to informed patient. He’s a good doctor and a decent man. I have confidence in him. As for that, these past months I’ve had marvelous fortune in the caregivers and providers with which I’ve been blessed.  

I have employed daydreams for a stress-reduction strategy since 2nd grade at Mt. Carmel in Tempe, Arizona (non-air-conditioned classrooms in the Valley of the Sun require flights of fancy). Big windows open to a desert sky — irresistible; that or bouts of reverie were just another quirk of the budding writer.

These days find me in an Indian Summer of health: restful sleep restored, strength and stamina waxing. I dare to hope for longer days in this particular meadow; when feeling well, we dare many things. For accompaniment, this modest vitality brings a specific sense from childhood: the intuition that, here and there — often in the open — dwell copious pockets of grace.

And each is marked by a sense of infinity.

I will cite one real example of such grace from my childhood. I may have been two, perhaps three. I stood at the railing of a crib just off the kitchen in a hallway. Behind the dining room table was a window that bathed the entire kitchen with soft yellow light. My mom puttered at the sink, cleaning up after breakfast. Presently she turned, stood, looked at me for a long while, and smiled.

It was beatific and I was bathed in love; what a charged-with-magic world. This and similar incidences were the intimations of eternity that were not infrequent in my childhood. They were communions with love, and the world seemed to swim in them. Save for dusk to evening and night to dawn, time held no meaningful boundaries. Childhood was simply a passage from grace to grace.

As I grew up, it became much less so. Strife marked the latter sixties and seventies. Soon enough I became an adult and put away “such childish things.” Now came worries and cares, avarice and lust, the clinging to the glamour of evil.  

I began to notice the restlessness of time as I aged into my thirties. The seasons were shorter, more compact. Up until puberty, an afternoon could last a week, a month was an age and a year an epoch. Infants in time are closer to eternity. Perhaps “suffer the children …” carries deeper meaning. Perhaps, children are already one foot into the Kingdom.

These past few decades, the pace of time continues to quicken. To quote the old Paul Simon song:

                                   “… the years are rolling by me

                                     they are rocking easily …”

I attribute to many prayers that the timeless and childlike sense of grace I knew well over a half century ago has made an appearance again in my life. Such a welcome guest. It is quite as if scales have fallen off and I am more the me I was.

Yesterday, I returned to the Vucurevich Cancer Care Institute to keep a promise. I had told the nurses and technicians in Radiation Therapy and Chemo Therapy that I would come back to say "hello" and "Thank you.” A tremendous source of the graces I describe came as a result of their professionalism, generosity and caring.

How very edifying it was to be able to see some of them, a full month later, quietly and diligently providing the same love in their care to those they presently serve. So, Christen, Jen, Brett, Angela, Dan, Adam, Kayla, I thank the Holy Lord for all of you, those I’ve named and those I wish I could.

You each were a revelation of love to me.

The base of the mountain nears, I return to home. Where even less assuming has been the humble love and charity I’ve received from my wife, Sandi, and our children. So, too, the help and prayers freely given by my brothers, sisters, and faithful other relatives and friends.

Each soul, a fountain of God’s love; each heart, a pocket of Eternity.          `

 Next: The week for gratitude

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Rich relatives are unlimited source of campaign cash in South Dakota

In a campaign finance report filed on the day of the Nov. 6 election by the campaign of governor candidate Billie Sutton, there was something peculiar.

It was a $10,000 contribution received from an individual on Nov. 5.

The peculiarity was the amount. By state law, the maximum allowable contribution from any individual to a statewide candidate is $4,000 per calendar year.

But the $10,000 contribution to Sutton’s campaign did not violate the $4,000 limit. Why? Because the contribution came from Sutton’s father-in-law, George Kenzy.

In South Dakota, state law exempts members of a candidate's immediate family from the contribution limits that apply to all other individual contributors.

The definition of “immediate family” in the law includes a candidate’s spouse; a child younger than 18 who is claimed by the candidate or the candidate’s spouse as a dependent; and, in the words of the law, “any relative within the third degree of kinship of the candidate or the candidate’s spouse, and the spouses of such relatives.”

“Third degree of kinship” is not defined in the law but is commonly considered to include uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, great-grandparents and great-grandchildren.

In other words, South Dakota’s campaign finance laws could be interpreted to allow unlimited campaign contributions to candidates from a candidate’s spouse; from the children, parents, siblings, grandparents, great-grandparents, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces of the candidate or the candidate’s spouse; and from the spouses of any of those relatives.

It is unknown exactly how often the exemption is used, because the South Dakota Secretary of State’s Office publishes only scanned copies of campaign finance reports, rather than a database that could be searched for contributor names or individual contributions greater than $4,000.

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, the state’s top elections official, said the exemption is probably not common knowledge among the general public, but is well known among candidates.

“It gets used quite a bit,” Krebs said.

Enacted, repealed, reinstated

A former secretary of state, Chris Nelson, who is now a public utilities commissioner, said he thinks the exemption dates to the 1970s. He remembers the exemption being in the state’s campaign finance laws when the Legislature and governor overhauled the laws in 2007.

Nelson said he does not recall the exemption being discussed when the 2007 overhaul of campaign finance laws was adopted. But legislative records show there was some tinkering with the exemption that year.

In the original draft of the campaign-finance overhaul bill, “immediate family” was defined only as a candidate’s spouse or the legally dependent children of the candidate or the candidate's spouse. The bill was subsequently amended, and the definition of immediate family was broadened to include relatives within the third degree of kinship.

The exemption remained in effect until it was briefly repealed by Initiated Measure 22, which voters approved in 2016. The repeal of the exemption was one of many provisions in the lengthy measure, which revised campaign finance and lobbying laws and also created a publicly funded campaign finance program and ethics commission.

South Dakota’s Republican-dominated Legislature and Republican governor repealed and partially replaced Initiated Measure 22 during the 2017 legislative session, and the replacement legislation included a reinstatement of the exemption.

Constitutional Amendment W, which was rejected by voters on Nov. 6, would have narrowed the applicability of the exemption to only the spouses of candidates.

Doug Kronaizl, field director for the Represent South Dakota political action committee, which supported IM 22 and Amendment W, would still like to see the exemption repealed or narrowed.

“Because every exemption, every crack you put into campaign finance laws or government ethics laws is potentially a loophole that can be exploited at the expense of the voters,” Kronaizl said.

Other states

The exemption is not unique to South Dakota. Austin Graham, legal counsel for the State & Local Program of the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C. — which was involved in the drafting of IM 22 — said there are similar exemptions in other states.

Illinois, for example, has no limits on contributions from a candidate's spouse, parents or children, Graham said. However, once a statewide candidate in Illinois surpasses $250,000 in self-funded contributions or contributions from family members, the normal contribution limits for all candidates in that race are removed.

In New York, there are no limits on contributions from candidates' spouses, Graham said, but there are formulas for maximum contributions from other immediate family members (including children, parents, grandparents and siblings of the candidate, plus the spouses of those relatives). For a statewide race in a general election, the maximum aggregate contribution from immediate family members is calculated by multiplying the total number of registered voters in the state by $0.025.

At the federal level, Graham said, a candidate may receive unlimited contributions from the candidate's own funds, and from a candidate's portion of any assets that are jointly owned with a spouse. But any further contributions from a spouse or other family members are subject to a standard individual contribution limit of $2,700 per election.

Where to draw the line

Graham said governments may justifiably limit individual campaign contributions to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption. But he said the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 1976 case, Buckley v. Valeo, that limits cannot be placed on candidates' contributions to their own campaigns.

"Candidates have a right to advocate for their own election, and there's not a risk of candidates corrupting themselves," Graham said, describing the court's logic.

That does not mean states have to extend contribution-limit exemptions all the way to the third degree of kinship, as South Dakota does. Graham said states could follow the federal government's example of exempting only the candidate's personal contributions, along with contributions from the candidate's portion of any assets that are jointly owned with a spouse. 

The key to a reasonable exemption, Graham said, could be determining an appropriate cutoff for the definition of "immediate family." He said the corrupting potential of contributions from a candidate's spouse, parents or children is low, but the potential may increase with each additional layer of kinship.

"I think South Dakota’s exemption is probably a little broader than would be ideal," Graham said.