McGrath urges action against meth
By BECKY SHAY
Of The Gazette Staff
Attorney General Mike McGrath was in Billings Thursday evening to help raise awareness about the widespread troubles created by methamphetamine. Use of the highly addictive drug creates problems that go beyond the criminal justice system, he said.
“We cannot arrest, prosecute or jail our way out of the meth problem,” McGrath said. “Law enforcement is an important part of the equation, but it must be balanced by equally strong treatment, education and prevention components.”
McGrath spoke to the Billings Exchange Club during a dinner meeting. He asked the group’s 26 members to help make other citizens aware of methamphetamine problems and, especially, to be aware of the drug’s impact on children. In Yellowstone County, drug abuse is a factor in about 80 percent of the child abuse cases investigated by Child Protective Services, McGrath said.
“Meth is particularly nasty stuff, and it’s going to take a comprehensive, sustained, communitywide effort to combat it,” he said. “Child-ren in families affected by meth use face an especially tough road. It is our job to make sure they don’t have to go it alone.”
Several legal steps have been taken to help address the effects of meth use. The Legislature this year included in the definition of child abuse exposing a child to operating a meth lab or distributing, manufacturing or producing dangerous drugs. McGrath’s office has obtained grants for law enforcement, and the Montana was included in the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
One of the best ways to stop methamphetamine is to crack down legally, he said. Arrests will cut supply and increase the cost of the drug, which is comparatively cheap among dangerous drugs.
But additionally, community and state leaders must help those dependent on the drug, he said. Meth is so addictive, McGrath said, people usually need more than the standard 28-day treatment program. “A young mother addicted to meth needs treatment. Jail isn’t going to solve that problem,” he said.
The Attorney General’s Office also developed the Bridge Program which partners the AG’s Office of Victim Services with the Department of Public Health and Human Services. They help fund three residential recovery homes for drug-addicted women and their children, including Michelle’s House in Billings, where the drug of choice among the mothers is meth, unlike the other homes where alcohol is listed first, McGrath said.
There is also a partnership with Montana State Univer-sity’s “MOST of Us” group, which will develop an anti-meth campaign to reach potential users and their broader communities. McGrath expects the campaign to be launched in early October.
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