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S.D. lawmakers look to address spread of meth addiction in summer study

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota legislators are studying options to combat the state's methamphetamine crisis, and one legislator does not think the state is doing enough.

The Legislature's summer study on combating methamphetamine addiction convened for their first meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 6.

Per the proposal of Republican Gov. Kristi Noem in her January budget address, the state in its Fiscal Year 2020 raised methamphetamine prevention funding by $4.6 million, aimed at education, enforcement and treatment. But Senate Minority Leader Sen. Troy Heinert, who is chairing this summer's study, said "there is way more to it."

"We're not going to incarcerate our way out of the problem," Heinert said after Tuesday's meeting. "I'm not trying to say I want to let dealers and users go free, but we have to start looking at the cause of why people are turning to meth."

Increasing funding to rebuild communities and provide housing could be a start, he said.

"If we do get them connected, if they do feel part of society, if there are the jobs and housing and the support systems there, maybe we can get to a point where we can cut off the addicts."

Tuesday's meeting contained only discussion, no legislative proposals yet for the 2020 session. Heinert also suggested that the group work together with the governor's office to prepare 2021's budget, rather than wait to see its contents until it's publicly released in January.

The study on Tuesday also heard from the Rosebud Sioux tribe — of which Heinert is a member — which has been hit particularly hard by the methamphetamine crisis.

Officials of the state's nine tribes have met with Noem to discuss the methamphetamine crisis, and possibly establishing joint powers agreements so that state highway patrolmen could help resource-strapped tribal police with drug enforcement.

It's a proposal that some tribal members are wary of, because of fears of sacrificing tribal sovereignty. But Rosebud Tribal Councilman Steve DeNoyer told legislators they do not have the manpower or money to tackle the issue alone.

On the nearly-2,000-square-foot Rosebud Reservation, DeNoyer said there are only 20 police officers on patrol.

"I'm not afraid to ask for help," he said.

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