Senator calls for more funding as Hawaii’s meth problem surpasses its opioid issue.
Drug and alcohol use, mental health conditions, unemployment, and homeless are just some of the public health crises that have amplified amid the pandemic. Hawaii was already facing many of these prior to the outbreak and has witnessed a sharp increase since the onset of the coronavirus. Now, Hawaii is expected to receive more than $4 million in federal funding to specifically address its methamphetamine and opioid abuse problem. Democratic U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz announced that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant expanded its reach, for the first time addressing stimulant use. Previously, the money could be used only for opioids.
Officials plan to use the funds to help pay for prevention, treatment and recovery support services, Schatz said, adding, “Meth misuse and addiction has been a serious problem in Hawaii for decades, but recently the meth-related death rate has skyrocketed. The grant will help us put critical resources towards saving lives and combating this crisis.”
The Senator asked in December of last year for the grant to respond to the growing meth crisis. “Federal intervention in Hawaii communities facing escalating problems of meth would help to reduce the number of deaths and serious harm from misuse and addiction,” Schatz said. He wrote in his petition to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), “Meth-related deaths have risen dramatically, from 37 deaths in 2009 to 147 in 2018. The number of deaths due to meth overtook the number of both prescription drug-and opioid-related deaths in 2015 and has spiked since then.”
Native Americans and Alaska Natives in Hawaii have had the highest death rate from meth. Schatz wrote, “By specifically targeting the growing problems of meth misuse and addiction, we can effectively prevent them from becoming a more serious crisis. And for communities, such as Hawaii, that are facing escalating problems of meth misuse, addiction, and death, concerted federal interventions will help to reduce the number of deaths and serious harm…As ONDCP, along with your partner federal agencies, responds to the opioid overdose epidemic, it is imperative that you also prioritize efforts to stem and reduce meth misuse, addiction, and deaths.”
He added, “These high meth-related death rates are not limited to Hawaii. West Virginia and Alaska have both experienced high meth-related death rates—14 deaths per 100,000 people in West Virginia and 9 deaths per 100,000 people in Alaska.” Regardless of where the crisis originates, its effects are widespread.
According to Hawaiian Judge Edward Kubo, “We’re not proud of it. But crystal methamphetamine is our gift to the nation. It started here. At that time meth was called the poor man’s cocaine. It was cheaper and yet you could get the same high. And it exploded here. Meth became the worst thing that we ever saw.” With substance use on the rise worldwide amid the coronavirus, the much-needed funding will help to slow its progression in the already compromised state and elsewhere.