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.