Thirteen people. That’s how many South Dakotans died last year because of meth.
Or 3,366 people. That’s how many people in our state were arrested last year on meth offenses.
These numbers are more than statistics. These are missing faces in family photos. Empty chairs at dinner tables. They are victims of an epidemic that is dramatically impacting South Dakota.
As governor, I have the unique responsibility and obligation to address problems like this. July 1 marked a milestone where most bills I signed during the legislative session went into effect, and I’m proud of the ways we’re making real headway on this issue.
In my budget, I allocated money for meth education and awareness. Right now, my team is accepting bids from media companies for a targeted meth awareness campaign. We need to be more active and intentional in teaching kids the danger of meth use and the effect it can have on their lives. We look forward to launching this campaign in the coming months.
On June 24, we added four additional meth troopers to our Highway Patrol ranks. At any given time, we will have about 20 troopers that focus on interdicting meth and other illegal drugs in our state. These troopers will work closely with two additional DCI agents to get more aggressive in enforcing our laws against meth and stopping those drugs from ever reaching our communities. Like Secretary Craig Price of the Department of Public Safety recently said, “We are dedicated 24/7 to making South Dakota a safer place to live.”
And while we crack down on the use of drugs, we’re also expanding opportunities for people caught in addiction who want to live in a sober and supportive environment and learn the skills necessary to continue a lifetime of sobriety. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, I encourage you to look at some of the places in your area that offer help. Programs like Teen Challenge of the Dakotas in Brookings or the RST Meth Rehabilitation center in Rosebud offer life-changing programs that produce real results for people caught in addiction.
I believe this plan will have a dramatic impact on our state, but we have a lot more to do. The first week in July, I hosted 10 tribal leaders for a luncheon at the Governor’s Residence to discuss ways we can work together to educate people on the dangers of meth and root out meth distributors on reservations. These discussions followed our first ever State-Tribal Meth Summit in May when we heard from several tribes who are interested in more active cooperation to help lock up meth dealers and expose their networks. I look forward to continuing these conversations in the coming days and working with tribes to put these discussions to action.
I’m grateful for the partnership of local, tribal, and federal leaders as we tackle this issue. Together, we will continue working to combat our meth epidemic and make South Dakota a safer, stronger state for the next generation.