A Prince George's County drug abuse task force voted last night to consolidate various efforts to curb abuse and make it easier to prosecute users of phenycyclidine, the drug commonly known as PCP.
About a dozen members of the Addictions Advisory Task Force also decided during a meeting in Upper Marlboro to urge the county to set up its own drug analysis laboratory, a move the state's attorney's office has said will eliminate a 300-case backlog at the Maryland State Police testing lab in Pikesville.
James Hendricks, the regional director of Second Genesis, a drug rehabilitation program, will head the new task force, which will include respresentatives from law enforcement agencies and citizen groups.
It will replace three groups -- County Executive Parris Glendening's office, the county Health Department and the addictions task force -- that had been operating separately to address problems arising from a marked increase in the use of PCP.
"PCP is the most dangerous drug on the market today," Hendricks said. "It does the most damage. Kids come in like zombies. They come in suffering from drug-induced psychosis where you have to baby-sit them for a week before they know where they are."
Earlier yesterday, Glendening announced that the the county will fund the hiring of two additional chemists at the Pikesville state police lab to handle Prince George's drug cases exclusively. Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties and the municipalities of of Baltimore and Ocean City have their own labs.
Glendening's plan will cost the county $23,000 for the two new temporary jobs. Both positions end when state funding for new permanent chemists comes through April 1, according to state police Maj. Carl R. Harbaugh.
Assistant State's Attorney Michael P. Whalen said his office supports the establishment of a separate local lab so that prosecutors can retain greater control over their cases.
But Prince George's police Lt. Col. Elmer Tippett said that it is "not our intention" for the county to try to build a local lab. The beefed-up staff at the state lab, he said, would eliminate any backlog for the forseeable future and also cost the county less.