On the issue of substance abuse initiatives, I would like to thank the first lady for tackling one of our state's most important public health issues: childhood drinking. She has taken a personal and passionate interest in the issue, empowering local community efforts and being a supportive voice for parents.
I suggest that what she has done may set a template for how to attack a related and equally frightening problem: methamphetamine use. Studies tell us that alcohol abuse is a gateway to hard drug use, particularly methamphetamines. Thus, we can more effectively address meth problems by redoubling our attention to teenage and preteen alcohol abuse and recognizing the need for new approaches to drug treatment and recovery.
Today's meth scourge isn't like past drug problems. This is a drug that has more lasting impacts on the body. People need more time in treatment to recover. The drug is easy to manufacture and readily available.
In the spirit of looking for new answers, I turn again to the governments closest to the people. Specifically, Casper and Cheyenne have embraced "Meth-Free" initiatives that are not dependent on state mandates. Rather, the opposite is true. Many of the suggestions coming from these community initiatives are worthy of state attention, such as advocating drug testing in businesses and building a "fast track" to treatment for people who admit they have a problem. State efforts should support community activism. I suspect grass roots solutions will be more productive and closer to the people than "gold dome" answers.
The director of the Department of Health and the new administrator of the Division of Substance Abuse have rolled up their sleeves and are ready to work with the Legislature to address the methamphetamine problem and the issues raised in the recent legislative audit. In addition, I have designated a formal liaison position within my office to make sure I am able to continue to work closely with the department and local initiatives to advance this effort.