A software program will soon be making its way into Calaveras County schools that will show students the effects of long-term methamphetamine use on a person's appearance.
It can take a downloaded photograph and almost instantly simulate what the subject will look like after six months, one year and three years of regular use of the drug.
It was purchased by the Calaveras County District Attorney's Office from a fund created by assets seized in drug cases. A portion of that fund must be devoted, by state law, to youth drug and gang prevention.
The program, Face2Face, is from Moss Beach developer Abalone LLC, and for $2,385, includes software, an iPad and printer.
The fund has been building since 1999, District Attorney Barbara Yook said.
"We've never really had a great use for it," Yook said.
Then it was suggested by Sheriff's Office Lt. Tim Sturm that the software might help bring the ugliness of meth use to young audiences in a significant way.
Yook said she hopes the program can be widely used throughout Calaveras County schools to show students the physical consequences of using the drug, which is dangerous in many ways.
Earlier anti-drug campaigns by law enforcement agencies have included posters with before-and-after pictures of actual users. Allowing students to see themselves with premature aging and lost teeth caused by meth use is something authorities hope will have even greater impact.
"That's the idea. To make it more personal," Yook said. "Those posters of real users, I think those can be really powerful … but it also can be easy to say, 'That's somebody else. They're 30, I'm 16.'"
Ironically, teenage girls sometimes take up the drug to lose weight and try to improve their appearance, she said.
"It brings it home much more, we hope … to show them, 'No, this is what it's going to do to you,'" Yook said.
She said a committee consisting of Sheriff Gary Kuntz, Chief Probation Officer Teri Hall, Angels Camp Police Chief Todd Fordahl and herself agreed to purchase Face2Face. The Probation Department may use it as a tool to discourage juvenile offenders from using the drug, Yook said.
Calaveras High School and Calaveras River Academy administrators also have expressed interest in the educational use of the software.
Angels Camp Police Department school resource officer Jim McKeon has been trained how to use it.
He is taking the lead on a program that introduces Bret Harte High School seniors to the software during their "senior seminar" class sessions in the coming weeks.
"I think it's important information for our kids to see," said Mike Chimente, principal of Bret Harte High School and superintendent of the Bret Harte Union High School District. "If we find it's successful and meaningful, we can move it down to the freshman (health class) level as well."
Two of the first volunteers to "donate their face" to show what the software tool can do were Calaveras High seniors Brittany Cox, the reigning Miss Calaveras, and Zack Johnson, the Redskins' starting quarterback and governor at this year's American Legion Boys State.
"To have these young people who are leaders among their peers step up to do that because they believe in the impact it can have and the message it sends means a lot," Yook said.
Contact Sean Janssen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 890-7741.