Since The Montana Meth Project “Expects” My Money, I Expect it To Work

In the current climate of reduced state revenue, maybe the marginally effective, if not downright counterproductive, Montana Meth Project shouldn’t “expect” to receive any more money at all:

The Montana Meth Project expects to receive state money even though an Australian scholar has criticized the anti-drug campaign.

Given that the director of the Montana Meth Project makes more money than any official in the Montana state government, it is too much to ask that she actually defend a program that exists now largely because of government largesse? In responding to claims that the MMP should not receive state funding, Shea offered the same lame talking point she did two months ago:

Peg Shea, executive director of the Montana Meth Project, said the researcher based his study on a limited analysis of the campaign. She said surveys show overwhelmingly positive results from the advertisements.

What Shea doesn’t mention is that the “limited research” came from the very surveys she cites as evidence of the project’s effectiveness. She’s right, to some extent. Everyone knows about the Montana Meth Project. That’s not how one should measure its effectiveness, though. How about the rates of meth use among teenagers, the target population for the ads? Surely, after spending over ten million dollars, there has been a huge impact, right?

Their own research says no. According to the Montana Meth Project’s Use & Attitudes Survey 2008, there has been very little change, and in fact, meth use among teenagers is higher than in 2005:

Students were asked whether or not they personally have been offered meth:

  • 2005: 11% said yes
  • 2006: 12% said yes
  • 2007: 13% said yes
  • 2008: 12% said yes

Students were asked if they had tried meth in the past year:

  • 2005: 2% said yes
  • 2006: 6% said yes
  • 2007: 4% said yes
  • 2008: 3% said yes

The Montana Meth Project is an unqualified success in one respect. Working hand in hand with a compliant media, it has been one of the most successful public relations campaigns in recent Montana history. We’re about four days away from another round of glowing coverage of the Meth Project’s results from the Montana media, who have found it easier to accept press releases and half-truths than investigate the program.

At a time when the state is struggling to meet its financial obligations to its children, in terms of health and education, it’s simply indefensible for any organization to “expect” state resources for a program that has proven itself to be so ineffective.

Tomorrow: How the Montana Meth Project spends its (and your) money.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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