Open Letter to Steve Daines: Let’s Address Meth as a Health Issue

Dear Senator Daines:

I recently read that on Friday, November 21, you and Attorney General William Barr will be attending a round table discussion in Kalispell on combatting meth use in Montana. I am glad to see the attention being brought to this subject, as we clearly need more resources to deal with this epidemic. However, I feel that Attorney General Barr is not the most qualified cabinet official to call upon. 

As head of the Justice Department, Barr represents a law enforcement-oriented approach to the problem of meth use. But a more constructive approach would be to see it as a societal issue. I’d rather see the Surgeon General give a public health perspective, the Secretary of Health and Human Services explain how we can improve the treatment services we provide to our citizens, Secretary of Education provide insight how we can use schools to prevent young people from starting drug use, or Secretary of the Bureau of Indian affairs propose solutions to the problem drug use poses to our Native communities. 

Law enforcement may be part of the solution, but it’s been overemphasized for decades. We have over 5000 people locked up in Montana right now – a greater percentage of our population than Cuba or Russia. How many more neighbors can we afford to put away? Meanwhile, I see people struggling with addiction face daunting waitlists or astronomical fees that keep them from getting the help they need, I see programs designed to protect children run on shoestring budgets, I see the Indian Health Services chronically underfunded, and I see a dearth of mental health professions across vast portions of our state.  

If we’re going to call for federal assistance in dealing with drug use and its side effects, we need to call on a full range of assistance dealing with every facet of the problem, rather than attempting to treat a complex public health issue with yet more law enforcement.  


Matthew Downhour

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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About the author

Matthew Downhour

Matthew Downhour is a professional tutor teaching history, economics, math, and English, and writing about politics, philosophy, and economics on the side. He graduated from Helena High School and Seattle University and now resides in Kalispell.


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  • Matt, that’s a very good positive put. You should attend and not be holding a protest sign outside looking stupid. These are the kind of conversations we need to move forward with those types that are focused on obtaining results.

    • Mark – your comment is out of line. What on earth gives you the idea that the author of this thoughtful article is standing outside holding a protest sign? Do you know him personally?

      I’m thinking you have an agenda.

    • I’m not looking to protest outside (and the event is closed to the public). Tester is having a town hall meeting though, maybe I’ll attend that. The trouble is I really want an open dialogue with Daines about this, but there seems to be a lack of opportunity for it.

      • Matt, you have a good input. Email Steve:

        Be part of the fix, not the problem. Results matter. 8 years of Tester and Obama and no Butte Veterans home. First year of Trump and Daines introduced the Veteran State Home Grant Backlog Reduction Act. Bam, Veterans home funded. Tester is all noise and no results. No one listens to Tester except maybe Chuck Schumer. But, Tester did intimate a Rear Admiral and the Captain that brought false allegations to a novice sap Tester has resigned her commission. Like she had a choice.

        Vote Republican. Vote your wallet, safety, and health.

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