Char-Koosta News: Daines introduces bill to combat meth use in Montana

U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senator Steve Daines introduced bipartisan legislation, the Mitigating the Methamphetamine Epidemic and Promoting Tribal Health Act, or the Mitigating METH Act, to combat methamphetamine use across Montana and strengthen Indian tribes’ ability to fight this epidemic.

“Methamphetamine use in Montana is tearing apart families and taking lives,” said Daines. “This is a crisis that needs immediate attention and more resources.”

• In the 21st Century Cures Act, enacted in 2016, Congress authorized $1 billion in funding over two years to address the opioid epidemic. 
• Daines’ legislation would make efforts to combat methamphetamine use, alongside opioid abuse, eligible for funding under the 21st Century Cures Act.  
• The Mitigating METH Act would also make tribes, like states, eligible to be direct grantees of this funding, better reflecting the government-to-government relationship between Indian tribes and the United States.
Methamphetamine Crisis in Montana:
• Montana saw a 427 percent increase in methamphetamine violations from 2010-2015.
• 54 percent of all criminal investigations in Montana involve meth.
• 46 percent of all substances indicated in children’s placements in the foster care system in Montana involve meth, a higher rate than any other drug. 
• There are 11 drug task forces in Montana, all reporting methamphetamine as the primary drug encountered.
Statements of Support:

“The methamphetamine and opioid epidemics have claimed many lives in Indian Country and have torn at the fabric of our families and communities. While we experience disproportionate risk from the opioid crisis, Tribes have been prevented from accessing resources available to other populations. The National Indian Health Board applauds Senator Daines for introducing this important legislation which will open up funding pathways to Tribes to address the crisis and save lives.” – Stacy A. Bohlen, Executive Director of the National Indian Health Board

“It’s no accident that there is an epidemic of both opioid and stimulant methamphetamine type disorder in Montana. The peak of the methamphetamine epidemic was in the early 2000’s, and Montana, even prior to the meth epidemic was experiencing an abnormally high level of use. Opioid use disorder epidemics historically follow stimulant use disorder epidemics, dating back to the 60’s. Furthermore, this situation is complicated by problems in the prescriptive practice related to opioids adding to the opioid use disorder epidemic. There are effective Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorders, but not for methamphetamine (stimulant) use disorders. What evidence does demonstrate is that long term engagement in treatment (up to one year) requires safe transitional living environments is effective in the treatment and long-term success of methamphetamine (stimulant) use disorder recovery. We support increasing access to MAT in the native communities and strongly support the need for increased access to transitional sober living environments. We stress that there is little clinical evidence regarding the effective treatment of the combined use disorder (opioid and methamphetamine disorders) as this has been primarily a western and rural American problem.” – Tammera Nauts, Executive Director of the Western Montana Health Center/Recovery Center Missoula

“The Fort Belknap Indian Community Council wishes to express our gratitude to Senator Daines for his continued recognition of the government-to-government relationship between Indian tribes and the federal government as demonstrated with his proposed amendment to the 2l’t Century Cures Act to include Indian tribes on the same basis as states and to expand the named drugs to include methamphetamine.” – Resolution of Support from Fort Belknap Indian Community Council.

“I am writing to express my support for the draft legislation sponsored by Senator Daines to add Indian tribes to the Cures Act for federal grants to respond to the opioid crisis.  I have extensive experience treating addiction in Montana, and I have observed that opioid addiction is a serious problem on Indian reservations, where multiple barriers (such as unemployment, rural geography, and lack of local medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction) make providing services on the reservations especially difficult.” – Robert C. Sherrick, MD, FASAM, Chief Medical Officer of Community Medical Services in Kalispell, MT.

“This bill is music to my ears. I really appreciate the fact that Sen. Daines is being mindful of our government-to-government relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes. I appreciate that he’s trying to amend the Cures Act to help us access resources and funding to combat the meth and opioid epidemics not just at Fort Belknap but all across the state of Montana. We are working with the resources we have to combat the meth and opioid epidemics and any additional resources we can benefit from will be good for our community’s health and wellness. Senator Daines, we appreciate it very much.” – Andrew Werk, Jr., President of Fort Belknap Indian Community. 

“On behalf of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, we appreciate your efforts to ensure that tribes will be able to obtain funding to develop and implement a plan to fight the war on drugs, not only for our programs, but for our schools and health facilities. As a Tribe, we want to insure the people of Rocky Boy’s Reservation that they can live in a healthy community, free from the environment causes by the misuses of drugs.” – Harlan Baker, Chairman of the Chippewa Cree Tribe.

“In Crow, we have seen the devastating effects of opioid addiction – this legislation will have a positive impact on our community. By putting Tribes on par with States, Congress will increase our access to drug treatment and prevention funds.  And by expanding the use of these funds to treat meth addiction, as well as opioid abuse, we can fight both scourges.  We thank Senator Daines for supporting these important improvements to the Cures Act.” – AJ Not Afraid, Chairman of the Crow Tribe