Bills in Congress address meth crisis in Indian Country
A yearlong effort by tribes to raise awareness of the methamphetamine crisis in Indian Country has resulted in at least four bills aimed at the growing problem.

Since the start of the 110th Congress earlier this month, lawmakers have introduced two measures designed specifically for tribes. Two other bills contain provisions related to meth in Indian Country.

"Methamphetamine use has reached epidemic proportions in Indian Country and has led to an increase in domestic violence and juvenile crime on reservations in recent years," said Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Michigan), the co-chairman of the Native American Caucus and a member of the House Resources Committee.

Kildee is a sponsor of the Native American Methamphetamine Enforcement and Treatment Act. The bill, introduced on January 17, ensures tribal governments receive federal funding for programs that are already open to states.

Another bill with a similar goal, the Indian Tribes Methamphetamine Reduction Grants Act, is being sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona). As chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee during the 109th Congress, he tied meth abuse to rising rates of crime on reservations.

"Methamphetamine is the leading drug-related law enforcement problem in the country," McCain said on January 4, the day the bill was introduced. "Unfortunately, the meth crisis is affecting Indian Country most severely."

In other legislation, Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colorado) has a bill that directs the Department of Justice to submit a report on the effects of the drug in Indian Country. "With limited numbers of tribal law enforcement officials, meth can easily flow into and be trafficked out of many Indian reservations," he said on January 4.

And Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Wyoming) is sponsoring a measure to require the Department of Health and Human Service to report on the number pregnant and parenting women in need of meth treatment. The data would be broken down by tribe and by state.

The activity comes a year after Joe Garcia, the president of the National Congress of American Indians, raised meth as a top issue. He called for Congressional hearings and a partnership with the White House and the Bush administration.

"Meth is killing our children, affecting our cultures and ravaging our communities," Garcia said in February 2006.

McCain quickly called hearings on the issue and though no legislation was introduced in 2006, testimony from tribal leaders about the impact of the drug resonated throughout the year. Later, in November, NCAI announced an initiative with the Interior Department and other federal and private partners to reduce meth use in Indian Country.

Meth is expected to remain a top issue for tribes in the coming year as well. Finding money to fight the drug has been one of their main concerns, an issue addressed in the Senate and House bills.

Under the measures, tribes will be eligible for grants under the COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) Hot Spots program, the Drug Endangered Children program and the Pregnant and Parenting Women Offenders program. "Our criminal justice, child welfare, and substance abuse systems in Native American country face substantial obstacles in their tremendous fight against meth," said Rep. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), a sponsor in the House.

Meth Legislation:
Indian Tribes Methamphetamine Reduction Grants Act (S.85) | Native American Methamphetamine Enforcement and Treatment Act (S.267) | Native American Methamphetamine Enforcement and Treatment Act (H.R.545) | Methamphetamine Trafficking Enforcement Act (S.132) | Family-Based Meth Treatment Access Act (H.R.405)

Relevant Links:
National Congress of American Indians - http://www.ncai.org
Office of National Drug Control Policy - http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov
Partnership for a Drug-Free America - http://www.drugfree.org
Montana Meth Project - http://www.montanameth.org

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