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Senators Cantwell, Dorgan, Baucus Say Combating Meth Must Remain a Top Priority for Country

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Location: Washington, DC


Senators Cantwell, Dorgan, Baucus Say Combating Meth Must Remain a Top Priority for Country

Senators convene panel discussion on rural America meth epidemic, push for more anti-meth funds

WASHINGTON, DC - Thursday, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), and Max Baucus (D-MT) convened a panel discussion on the meth epidemic plaguing rural America to make sure the fight against meth remains a top priority. The panel emphasized the need for full-funding of federal anti-meth grants to prevent and treat meth use and support state and local law enforcement anti-meth efforts. Panel members included law enforcement officers, a former top U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official, and Tim Smith, the executive director of Daybreak Youth Services, a nonprofit agency with treatment facilities in Vancouver and Spokane that provide substance abuse services to teens.

"Meth is a serious problem for too many of our communities," said Cantwell, co-chair of the Senate Anti-Meth Caucus. "Our cities, towns, and rural areas are still struggling with meth use, gang activity, and meth-related crime. The federal government must do more to stand by local law enforcement and rural communities in this fight, and victims living in rural areas need access to help and treatment."

During the discussion, Cantwell asked panel experts about trends in teen meth use, access to treatment, the lessons learned from combating the spread of other drugs, the role schools can play in combating meth, and the need for cooperation among different levels of law enforcement. Thursday, Cantwell, Baucus, and Dorgan also sent a letter to Senate and House appropriations leaders asking them to increase funding for federal grant programs that help states and local communities prevent and treat drug abuse.

"Meth remains a major problem for our communities and we need sufficient federal funding to keep up the fight," the senators wrote. "Our rural areas have been hit hard by the destructive effects of meth and continue to suffer a myriad of social problems caused by meth abuse including increased child neglect."

A National Association of Counties study recently determined that meth is the number-one drug problem in half of America's rural counties with populations below 50,000, and that meth-related crime continues to grow in many of these areas.

Since taking office, Cantwell has worked tirelessly to help communities and local law enforcement in the fight against meth. In July, Cantwell worked with her colleagues to secure Congressional approval of $40 million in new annual funding to help children harmed by meth. Earlier this year, Cantwell also worked to include the Combat Meth Act and other anti-meth measures in legislation to re-authorize the Patriot Act. This new law restricts the sale of products used to produce meth, provides funds to help victims, and gives new tools to states, law enforcement, and prosecutors. The legislation also authorizes $99 million for the Meth Hot Spots program, which provides grants to states and communities to clean up meth labs, purchase equipment, and train law enforcement officials to investigate and convict meth offenders.

Cantwell has also sponsored the Arrest Methamphetamine Act to curb meth trafficking across the U.S.-Canadian border into Washington, as well as legislation to investigate the link between meth crimes and other criminal activity such as identity theft. In May, she won Senate approval of legislation to create a national Meth Prevention Week.

[The text of the senators' letter to appropriators follows below]

Dear Chairman Shelby, Ranking Member Mikulski, Chairman Specter, and Ranking Member Harkin:

As you finalize the FY07 appropriations bills, we urge you to maintain or increase funding for federal grant programs for state and local law enforcement, drug abuse prevention, and drug treatment programs that are vital to combating the methamphetamine epidemic that still plagues our country. Meth remains a major problem for our communities and we need sufficient federal funding to keep up the fight. Our rural areas have been hit hard by the destructive effects of meth and continue to suffer a myriad of social problems caused by meth abuse including increased child neglect.

This summer a National Association of Counties survey found that methamphetamine remains the number one drug problem across the country and meth-related crimes are continuing to grow. While law enforcement efforts have shut down many meth labs, meth from Mexico is still making its way into our states. The number of admissions to treatment programs in which meth was the primary drug of abuse has more than quadrupled over the last ten years. According to 2005 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) data, over 500,000 people used meth in the past month. Nationwide, the number of meth users who were dependent on or abused some illicit drug has risen significantly from 164,000 in 2002 to 257,000 in 2005. First responders see the impact of meth on families and children everyday in hospitals, homes, and raided labs.

We are concerned that the President's FY07 budget recommended completely eliminating the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAGs). While the Senate provided $465 million for JAGs, the House only called for $348 million. Similarly, the President slashed funding for the COPS program to $102 million, a 78 percent decrease and proposed the elimination of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HITDA) Program. The House recommended funding at a higher level than the Senate for both these program. HIDTA, COPS and JAG are essential resources to state and local enforcement at a time when meth-related crimes are on the rise. We urge you to maintain the highest level of funding.

In addition to important law enforcement programs, there has never been adequate funding for federal grant programs aimed at treatment like the Substance Abuse Prevention Treatment block grant and the Prevention of Methamphetamine and Inhalant Abuse and Addiction program. Over the last five years funding levels for these grant programs have remained flat not even taking account for inflation.

These trends must change. It is imperative that the Congress provide the resources that states need to cope with the ongoing meth crisis. We must make fighting meth a priority.

We look forward to working with you to address these critical issues in the months ahead.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell U.S. Senator Max Baucus U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan

http://cantwell.senate.gov/news/record.cfm?id=263967&&days=30&

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