United Against Meth
June 30th, 2006 - The scourge of methamphetamine has had a devastating effect on our communities across the country. We have seen meth's destructive forces first hand in Nebraska. It is the issue I hear about most frequently in my discussions with Nebraska law enforcement officials. The meth epidemic has strained local law enforcement agencies, community treatment facilities, drug courts, and has exacted an enormous human price on our nation's families.
A recent study published by the University of Nebraska at Omaha estimated that in 1992, approximately 88 Nebraskans were admitted to meth treatment programs; by 2003, this number increased nearly twenty-fold to 1,721 Nebraskans. At the same time, thousands of Nebraskans are not getting the treatment they need for meth abuse.
To effectively confront methamphetamine trafficking we must address it both internationally and at home.
On June 21, I co-chaired a Senate Foreign Relations Joint Subcommittee hearing with Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) on international meth trafficking. The hearing focused on efforts to control the international shipment of meth precursor chemicals and to avoid their diversion for illicit production of meth. Among witnesses testifying at the hearing was John P. Walters, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Serving as the nation's "Drug Czar" Mr. Walter's provided valuable perspective on the overall challenges we face in combating the methamphetamine epidemic. In his testimony he stated that, "The United States has had domestic success fighting the spread of methamphetamine production by controlling the precursors. We can achieve this impact globally by working cooperatively with our international partners." To address this challenge we begin by focusing on the U.S. strategy to stop meth at the border.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) now estimates that approximately 80 percent of all meth consumed in the United States is smuggled into the country from Mexico. Among other efforts, increasing the number of law enforcement officers at our borders will significantly reduce the amount of methamphetamine entering our country. In May, the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation, which I co-authored, that provides a tremendous increase in border enforcement resources. My bill adds 14,400 new border patrol agents to the current force, bringing the total to 25,983; provides a 70% increase in immigration and customs enforcement officers; quadruples border fencing, and enhances electronic surveillance. It's imperative we secure our border to improve interdiction drug efforts.
Domestically, we have taken some important steps forward. Earlier this year Congress passed the Patriot Act Reauthorization bill which included provisions from the Combat Meth Act, of which I am an original cosponsor. The law restricts the sales of chemicals used in the production of meth, puts them behind the counter, requires buyers to show identification and sign a logbook. It also authorizes additional funding for the Meth Hot Spots program and Drug Endangered Children rapid response teams. The Combat Meth Act strengthens Nebraska's existing restrictions on the sale of medicines containing meth precursor chemicals which were passed in September 2005. I've been a strong supporter of continued funding for the U.S. Department of Justice's Edward Byrne Memorial Grant program, which supports Nebraska's law enforcement agencies in their fight against meth. Between FY 2002 and FY 2006, Nebraska has received more than $15.6 million in Byrne funding. Those funds have supported programs for drug demand reduction, treatment, law enforcement training, and court system improvement.
No Nebraska community has gone untouched by meth. In April, I visited Catholic Charities Campus of Hope's meth treatment facility in Omaha, and witnessed firsthand the positive developments being made in meth treatment and prevention. Dr. Scott Adams, Executive Director of the facility, and I discussed how only a comprehensive effort will be able to put a stop to the destructive forces of meth.
Combating the spread of meth is a huge undertaking; and we must employ our communities, states and nation in this battle. Americans throughout history, unified in purpose, have never backed down from the day's pressing challenges. The fight against meth abuse will be no different.
For additional information on methamphetamine awareness and prevention programs, please visit The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's meth website at, http://methresources.gov.