“People say illegal use of narcotics is a victimless crime, but it is far from that,” Sheriff Bob Brooks said. “It claims many lives. When you see children who are victims of methamphetamine, it really grips your heart.” There are meth labs throughout Ventura County, including in middle-class neighborhoods, Human Services Agency Director Ted Myers said. “They could be your next-door neighbor,” he said. “The chemicals get into the children’s clothing. These kids are damaged, and they have to be protected.” Public health nurses involved in the new program will give the children medical attention, while social workers make sure all of the children’s immediate needs are met. The first anti-child-abuse teams were established in 1958 at hospitals in Pittsburgh and Denver and at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, and they have expanded since then, according to the California Alliance for Drug Endangered Children. [email protected] (805) 583-7602160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “Ensuring the safety and well-being of children exposed to meth lab environments is our first priority,” said county Supervisor Kathy Long, who joined other county officials announcing the new program Friday. She cited a 2005 national survey on drug use and health sponsored by the federal government estimating that 10.4 million Americans 12 or older had used meth at least once in their life. Besides the police agencies, the program involves the fire departments, the Probation Department, the District Attorney’s Office, the county Human Services Agency, the county Health Care Agency and the Casa Pacifica home for abused and neglected children. The program was developed with current employees, streamlining their cooperation in illegal drug cases to focus on protecting children. It has been in the works for the past year, and is modeled after one established in the early 1990s in Butte County, the first county in the United States to develop such an effort. About 25 California counties now have such teams, including Los Angeles. VENTURA – A variety of Ventura County agencies, including police, public health nurses and social workers, are teaming up to help children whose lives are threatened by illegal drugs in their homes, particularly children growing up with meth labs. “Any time children are subjected to the dangers of a methamphetamine lab, it’s a tragedy,” said Capt. Ron Nelson, a spokesman for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, which is among nearly all law enforcement agencies in the county participating in the new program. “We are hoping to get children the services they need in a timely manner to get their lives turned around. I believe this program will go a long way to ensuring the safety of children.” Children living around drug labs are exposed to toxic chemicals and are frequently abused, with inadequate supervision and medical care and increased risk of injury from fire, law enforcement and other officials said. All that increases the chances the children will grow up to be criminals themselves.