Additional resources to fight meth in Maine

17 years ago

I have written before about how we need to be doing more to combat the use and trafficking of methamphetamine (meth), a highly addictive drug that is appearing in every corner of our country. While work still remains to be done, I am pleased to announce that as I am writing this the House of Representatives is poised to provide new resources for Maine through the 2008 Commerce-Justice-Science funding bill.
    The bill increases overall support for law enforcement and provides $200,000 for a top priority of mine – the Maine State Police Methamphetamine Project.
After meeting many times with the Maine State Police, it became clear to me that we needed more help fighting meth, as meth production, use, and distribution was on the rise in our state. As we have seen both in the number of indictments and in the stories of abuse, meth is an emerging threat that must be addressed before it balloons out of control.
That is why I fought so hard to include funding in the bill for the Maine State Police Methamphetamine Project. This funding will help our state address the threats we face and move forward with a comprehensive strategy.
In addition to this specific funding for Maine, it has also been a priority of mine to pass the increase in this bill for overall law enforcement funding. I was especially pleased that the House bill includes large increases for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program and the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, both of which have suffered massive cuts in the past.
With fresh evidence that the violent crime rate has risen for the second straight year, the bill rejects the President’s proposal to slash the COPS program by 94 percent. The bill instead provides $725 million, which is $183 million above 2007. This includes $100 million for the COPS hiring program to get new officers working, $175 million for expanding DNA analysis and forensic crime lab capacity to help catch criminals, and $85 million for beefing up enforcement in “meth hot spots” – places where meth is a serious problem.
The President’s budget also proposed eliminating Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, but this bill rejects this short-sighted idea and instead provides $600 million for these grants.
The COPS and JAG programs are important because they provide substantial support for law enforcement in Maine. Among other things, they help fund the hiring of police officers, prosecution and court programs, prevention and education programs, and technology grants. Enforcement is a critical piece of our comprehensive strategy to combat drug abuse.
Of course, while law enforcement is one crucial component to fighting illegal drugs, so too is treatment.
For this reason, I joined together with my colleagues in the House to once again secure an increase in the Drug Court Grant Program. This program helps fund drug courts that are designed to keep people from coming back into the system and to reduce substance abuse among nonviolent offenders. In fact, drug courts have been proven to increase the offenders’ likelihood of successful rehabilitation through early, continuing, intense treatment supervised by a judge, mandatory periodic drug testing, and the use of sanctions.
Maine has been leading the way with its effective drug court program. The additional funding in this bill will allow the state to expand and continue their good work. This will help more people with their addiction as well as reduce the number of repeat offenders. This program also has the added benefit of saving the state money in the long-term by avoiding costs associated with incarceration and a lack of productivity.
Passing this bill will be a strong step in the right direction. It reverses years of drastic cuts in state and local law enforcement assistance and helps Maine cope with the challenges facing our communities.