Tester Stands with Indian Country to Fight Drug Abuse

In wake of three tribal state’s of emergency, Senator outlines efforts to reduce addiction

(U.S. Senate)-After three Montana tribes declared a state of emergency to deal with a growing drug epidemic, Senator Jon Tester today called on Congress to pass critical legislation to help fight against drug abuse in Indian Country.

“We must take on the drug epidemic that is plaguing our communities, families, and reservations,” said Tester. “I have outlined common-sense solutions that will deliver resources to the ground and help the folks who are most at-risk. By making Indian Country safer, we can protect the next generation of tribal leaders and ensure they have every shot at success.”

In April, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee is expected to hold a hearing on Tester’s Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts Act, which will authorize $10 million annually for Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts that focus specifically on holding drug offenders accountable while also rehabilitating them and getting them treatment, culturally-informed counseling and community support.

Earlier this month, Tester offered an amendment to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act that would have ensured Indian tribes had access to additional resources to combat substance abuse in their communities. He also introduced legislation to invest in research to develop non-opioid treatments for chronic pain, in order to reduce addictions to harmful pain killers.

Tester is also pushing legislation to expand after school opportunities for Native American youth. Tester’s bill will create a grant initiative to establish or maintain affordable before school, after school, and summer school activities for American Indian and Alaska Native children. After school programs provide a safe alternative for tribal youth and have helped increase Native American graduation rates from the national average of 67 percent to nearly 90 percent in some communities.

Tester, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, is the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation sponsoring legislation to combat the drug epidemic in Indian Country.

Yesterday, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe was the latest tribe in Montana to declare a state of emergency of drug abuse-joining the Blackfeet and Fort Belknap Tribes. Yesterday, Tester met with the leaders of the Aaniih Nakoda Anti-Drug Movement in Fort Belknap.