HELENA – The efforts to combat the influx of methamphetamine and other drugs in Montana could be in jeopardy after proposed funding cuts.
The White House is planning to cut the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP), budget by 95 percent, meaning President Donald Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal would include $24 million for the ONDCP instead of the current $388 million.
Included in the proposed cuts is eliminating funding for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) grant program, which operate in five Montana counties, including Lewis and Clark, Cascade, Missoula, Flathead and Yellowstone.
Montana HIDTA task forces receive about $1 million in grants to help dismantle drug organizations in communities across the state.
On Monday, Senator Jon Tester, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee which is in charge of creating the budget, sent a letter to President Donald Trump, expressing his concern about the proposed cuts and willingness to work towards a solution.
“I think we’ve seen firsthand the devastation that opioid and meth abuse has had on families across Montana. What this will do is just take us a giant step backwards and really stop communities from being able to deal with the drug abuse problems in their individual communities in a way that’s most effective,” Tester added.
In the letter, Tester said, “The successes of local law enforcement in Montana re the biggest indicators of the necessity of these HIDTA funds,” referring to the number of arrests and seizures.
Montana’s Department of Justice, which is a partner in HIDTA, issued the following statement:
”As it’s Congress’ job to set the federal budget, the Montana Department of Justice looks forward to working with Montana’s representatives in Congress to ensure that drug interdiction efforts such as the HIDTA Task Force have the resources needed to combat drug trafficking in Montana. Unfortunately, the current piecemeal approach to addressing substance abuse in our country isn’t enough. That’s why the Montana Department of Justice launched Aid Montana, an initiative to comprehensively address substance abuse in our state. We look forward to working with the Trump administration, and our representatives in Congress, to come up with a new strategy through the Aid Montana initiative to address this problem that’s plaguing our state and our country.”
In the United States, there are 28 regional HIDTAs, comprising of 60 percent of the nation’s population.
Montana is part of the Rocky Mountain HIDTA, which also includes Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.