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Indians Left Out of Anti-Meth Bill

By Michael Coleman
Journal Washington Bureau
    WASHINGTON— A new federal grant program to fight methamphetamine abuse inadvertently excluded Native American communities from the list of eligible applicants.
    Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said Tuesday he is working to fix the mistake.
    President Bush recently signed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 into law, but tribes and pueblos were unintentionally left out as eligible applicants under two Department of Justice initiatives the new law created: the COPS Hot Spots program and the Drug-Endangered Children program.
    Bingaman said his bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and introduced Tuesday, would simply add Native American governments to the list of eligible grant recipients. Most of the other recipients are state governments, according to Bingaman's office.
    "We must correct the law to ensure that Indian Country has access to all the tools needed to fight this terrible problem," Bingaman said.
    Joe Garcia, president of the National Congress of American Indians and governor of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo in northern New Mexico, said in February that meth addiction is "killing our people and devastating our communities." The Indian Health Service estimates that 30 percent of Indian youth have experimented with the drug, Garcia said.
    If adopted, Bingaman's legislation would allow Native American communities to apply for $99 million in funding for the COPS Hot Spots Grant Program, which helps local law enforcement agencies fight the production, distribution, and use of meth. The money also can be used to clean up toxic meth labs.
    The Bingaman bill also would make Native American communities eligible for part of a $20 million Drug-Endangered Children Grant Program that helps pay for services for children who live in a home where meth has been used, manufactured, or sold.

E-MAIL writer Michael Coleman