South Dakota Mayors Join Forces to Address State’s Meth Issues

By Paul Gaita 09/30/16
Last year, over 2,000 people were arrested for methamphetamine in the Mount Rushmore State.
South Dakota Mayors Join Forces to Address State’s Meth Issues

As methamphetamine use continues to rise in South Dakota, the mayors of the two largest cities in the state held a joint press conference to address the problem and discuss measures to assist law enforcement, medical professionals and addicts alike in combating the epidemic.

Mayors Steve Allender of Rapid City and Mike Huether of Sioux Falls spoke to the press via computer link on Tuesday about the scope of the meth crisis and its impact on communities across the state. 

“It’s not just Sioux Falls and Rapid City and Aberdeen that are dealing with this,” said Huether. “Every mayor, every city, every town is being impacted and the resources to combat it are really being impacted as well.”

In South Dakota, arrests for methamphetamine rose from 1,500 to 2,100 from 2014 to 2015. As a result, police say violent crime has skyrocketed, and prison populations have swelled to record-high averages, despite legislation set forth in 2013 to slow the growth of the state’s inmate population by expanding community service access for non-violent offenders. 

“Police officers, prosecutors and corrections are not equipped to deal with half a dozen or a dozen meth addicts being arrested in one night,” said Allender. “Our police departments across the state are very good, but we cannot keep up with a societal problem such as drug addiction. There has got to be some resources available for treatment more readily available than they are today. That, to me, is the missing link in today’s society.”

Huether agreed with this assessment: “If you've got this meth problem, if you're a meth addict, and if you want to get treatment, where in the world are you going to go?”

Both mayors supported the expansion of state-run detox and treatment centers as a direct means of addressing the problem. “Meth treatment is going to have to be radically different,” said Allender. “The main thing that I would like to see is the ability to build treatment capacity within this state. Ultimately, I think we can support a treatment center on both ends of this state.”

Huether also encouraged other mayors and state legislators to open lines of dialogue with their constituents. “That was my first goal,” he said. “Let’s talk about it. Let’s get young people, old people, rich people, and poor people. Let’s make progress.”

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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