by William Skink
The Missoula Independent this week takes a look at the return of meth in Montana with a feature piece by Kate Whittle, titled Not Even Close, a play on the infamous Not Even Once marketing campaign from the Montana Meth Project.
Why has meth returned with a vengeance? Answering that questions won’t be easy, so maybe our state leaders should begin with identifying what ISN’T working. Will that happen? Not during an election season, and here’s why.
Nine years ago the Montana Meth Project was winning awards and the accolades of Montana politicians who jumped at the chance to throw state money into the pot, though some had reservations at the time:
Rep. Mary Caferro, D-Helena, said many of her colleagues are supporting additional funding for the program for political gain.
“It’s simple, it’s easy and looks good, and it’s popular,” Caferro said. “But it leaves out a big piece of the picture, which is investing in children’s health care and education, which isn’t as sexy.”
House Republicans have cut millions of dollars from the governor’s original budget, which they have argued was bloated and wastes taxpayers dollars. The cuts included
$4.3 million that was axed from the meth treatment centers advertised as a way to reduce the prison population.
Critics argue there is a much greater need to fund treatment facilities than the ad campaign, and they point out that the Meth Project itself is producing the surveys that show its success.
That was April, 2007. Now, nine years later, Whittle provides some updated info on what happened during those subsequent year:
A 2008 study published in Prevention Science determined the Meth Project’s tactics actually led to “increases in the acceptability of using methamphetamine and decreases in the perceived danger of using drugs.” The study also accused the Meth Project of cherry-picking its data to seem more successful, considering that Montana teen meth use, as reported by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, had already been decreasing since 1999. In light of the criticism, then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer used his line-item veto to slash public funding to the Meth Project.
Despite the drug’s resurgence within the state in the last few years, the Meth Project continues to claim credit for spreading awareness about its dangers and reducing first-time use. In 2015, the Montana Meth Project celebrated “10 years of unselling meth.” The project’s current activities are a shadow of its heyday, but it’s still running active social media campaigns and contests, like this year’s “Life or Meth” video submissions competition. It reported about $260,000 in income on its 2014 tax return, almost entirely from private contributions. First Lady Lisa Bullock is listed as a member of its board of directors.
Ah, so despite the fact the Montana Meth Project has been a complete failure at stopping people from trying meth, just like the JUST SAY NO campaign was during the 80’s, it’s got the wife of the Governor on its board of directors, so fat chance on killing this worthless project while the Governor tries to get himself reelected. Is that why no one returned Kate’s call?
The Montana Meth Project didn’t return the Indy’s requests for an interview, however Executive Director Amy Rue has acknowledged meth’s return. In a November 2015 story in the Flathead Beacon, she’s quoted as telling the paper, “The mission is still the same, we’re driven and motivated to reduce first time meth use among Montana teens.”
Don’t worry, Amy, even though the effort you are heading is a total failure, if you have the Governor on your side, I’m sure you will be insulated from the reality of that failure. At least until November.
And what are those efforts? Well, if you head on over to the Missoulian, you will find out what the latest waste of time and money from the MMP entails:
The Montana Meth Project is calling all Treasure State filmmakers as the organization gathers submissions for a national 30-second commercial competition featuring a grand prize of $20,000 and nationwide air time for the winner.
Aspiring and established filmmakers from around the United States are encouraged to create an impactful commercial centered on the theme of “Life or Meth.” The submissions will be evaluated by four of the country’s Meth Project executive directors. The 10 best submissions will be invited to participate in an exclusive panel to be held at Series Fest in Denver on June 22-26.
Fantastic, more commercials that don’t work and money that isn’t going to increasing access to treatment. What a fucking joke.
I truly hate politics. It’s all about image over substance, and reality need not apply during an election season.
Democrats are invested in the image that everything is A-OK in Montana because they want to maintain control of the Governor’s office. I get that, and I’ll probably even end up voting for Steve Bullock just to ensure the worst legislative damage from the extreme right can be vetoed.
But everything is not A-OK in Montana, and Whittle’s piece is just the tip of the iceberg.
I guess we’ll have to wait until after November to acknowledge the reality of what service providers and first responders already know: it’s bad out there, and getting worse.