Western states complain that the federal government ignored the nation’s methamphetamine problem until the drug made inroads east and popped up in large cities, such as Chicago and Philadelphia, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Now that tens of millions of federal dollars are being spent to combat the so-called “epidemic,” Utah isn’t fighting for its share. Last week, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced $28 million in grant awards for addiction research. Utah’s neighbors – Colorado, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington – are among the states tapping these and other meth-related monies.
Utah didn’t apply. State officials say they routinely bypass small grants because they don’t pay for themselves. They blame a reluctance to compete for larger pots on a 2004 law that requires agencies to run their grant applications by the Utah Legislature. The law was passed after lawmakers learned Mike Leavitt – then Utah’s governor, and now overseeing substance abuse spending as U.S. Health and Human Services secretary – secretly signed Utah up to participate in a controversial anti-terrorism citizen surveillance program called MATRIX. Nationally, debate has waged over whether meth use has reached an epidemic. Self-reported use of the drug is on the decline, though treatment centers report a surge in meth dependence and addiction, says Kenneth Robertson at the Centers for Substance Abuse Treatment. SAMHSA’s latest round of grants doesn’t begin to make up for million-dollar cuts to California’s share of federal substance abuse block grants, said one official. “It’s getting to the point where it’s downright scary. I don’t want to end up like Hawaii where they can’t even drug test because everyone tests positive for ice [or meth.]”