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Montana Meth Project Statement Regarding Billings Gazette Story

Saturday, September 19, 2009 General News J E 4
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MISSOULA, Mont., July 6 On Sunday, July 5, 2009, The Billings Gazette published a story focused on the Montana Meth Project. The story also ran in the Helena Independent Record and the Missoulian the same day. In framing the story as a "debate" about the Montana Meth Project's success, columnist Ed Kemmick omitted a number of key facts and misrepresented others--concerns that were expressed to the editor of The Billings Gazette prior to the story's publication.

Last week the Montana Office of Public Instruction released new data that showed a continued drop in Meth use among Montana teens. The Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), conducted statewide by the Montana Office of Public Instruction and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) every two years, showed that between 2005 and 2009, teen Meth use in Montana dropped by 63%.(1) However, Mr. Kemmick included only select data out of context from the YRBS and omitted significant findings which illustrate the changes in the scope and scale of the Meth problem in Montana since the launch of the Montana Meth Project in 2005 including third-party data showing significant, positive changes in the state.

The facts are:

The assessment of usage and other behavioral trends requires a complete view of all the data available, not selective data. The Montana Meth Project reviews a broad range of trend data to provide an accurate assessment of the changes, in all areas, since the launch of the Montana Meth Project in 2005. Key usage indicators are the CDC's YRBS, Quest Diagnostics workplace drug testing data, treatment admissions rates, and Board of Crime Control Crime Lab data.

Mr. Kemmick's article extensively references David Erceg-Hurn, an Australian psychology student who has been critical of the Montana Meth Project. Mr. Erceg-Hurn has never contacted or spoken with any representatives from the Montana Meth Project or the researchers familiar with the Project, and has never sought clarification or additional information on any of the questions raised in this and other news stories. He has not responded to repeated requests to engage in dialogue about his methods and assertions by experts and the Montana Meth Project. Nor has he spoken to public officials in Montana about data released by the state's public health and criminal justice agencies. Mr. Erceg-Hurn has not done research in Montana, and has no familiarity with the methamphetamine problem this state faced prior to the launch of the Montana Meth Project.

The Montana Meth Project is grateful for the widespread support it has received from the citizens and teens of Montana for the past four years. We are proud to have worked closely with leaders in federal and state government, with law enforcement and public health officials, the business community, volunteers, and young people from across the state to address Montana's methamphetamine problem. As the data shows, by working together we have made extraordinary progress.

(1) Office of the Attorney General, The Economic Cost of Methamphetamine Use in Montana. February 2009.

(2) Montana Office of Public Instruction, 2009 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey. June 2009.

(3) Office of the Attorney General, The Economic Cost of Methamphetamine Use in Montana. February 2009.

(4) Montana Attorney General, Mike McGrath. Methamphetamine in Montana: A Follow-Up Report on Trends and Progress. March 2008.

(5) Montana Attorney General, Mike McGrath. Methamphetamine in Montana: A Follow-Up Report on Trends and Progress. March 2008.

(6) Office of the Attorney General, The Economic Cost of Methamphetamine Use in Montana. February 2009.

-- The Montana YRBS surveys conducted after the launch of the Montana Meth Project found significant declines in Meth use when compared to the years before the project was initiated in the state.(2) -- Comparing data from the two-year period prior to the launch of the Montana Meth Project to the post-launch period, shows a dramatic acceleration in the decline in teen Meth use: -- 11% decrease in teen Meth use from 2003 to 2005, the two-year period prior to the launch of the Montana Meth Project -- 45% decrease in teen Meth use from 2005 to 2007, the two-year period after the launch of the Project -- Instead of comparing the data from the two-year period prior to the launch of the Project (2003 to 2005), the article selectively cites 2001 to 2003 to compare to results from 2005 to 2007, completely omitting the prior period data (2003 to 2005). -- Comparing the four-year period prior to the launch of the Montana Meth Project to the results post-launch, again, show the change is significantly different: -- 34% decrease from 2001 to 2005, the four-year period prior to the launch of the Montana Meth Project -- 63% decrease from 2005 to 2009, the four-year period after the launch of the Project -- The story selectively omits data provided to the reporter from the Montana Attorney General, Board of Crime Control Crime Lab, and Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. All which show significant, positive changes in the state since 2005, including: -- 42% decline in Meth-related treatment admissions among patients 20 years old and younger, and a 24% decline for patients of all ages from 2005 to 2007 as reported by the Montana Attorney General based upon Alcohol and Drug Information System Client Admission data.(3) In this period (2005-2007) Meth-related treatment admissions decreased, while overall treatment admissions remained virtually unchanged. -- 53% decrease in Meth-related crime from 2005 to 2006 and a 62% decrease in Meth-related crime from 2005 to 2007 as reported by the Montana Attorney General based upon Montana Board of Crime Control data. Prior, the rate of Meth-related crime was increasing (21% from 2004 to 2005).(4) -- 11% decrease in Meth-related foster care placements from 2005 to 2007 as reported by the Montana Attorney General based upon data from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.(5) -- According to the Montana Attorney General's office, the costs associated with Meth in Montana peaked at $300 million in 2005 and has decreased steadily over the past three years to approximately $200 million in 2008.(6)

SOURCE Montana Meth Project
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