RiverStone Health Clinic
Billings, Montana

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  To Senator Daines and Congressman Gianforte; to General Fox; and to Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan with HHS; to the members of the law enforcement community here in Montana; and everyone here at RiverStone Health Clinic: Thank you so much for making time out today to brief us on the challenges and the opportunities and the progress that we’re making combatting drug abuse and addiction here in Montana.

I spoke to the President this morning, and I know how grateful he is for the efforts that all of you are making here in Montana.  And I just — I want to pass along his and my admiration and appreciation for the unique challenges that you face here, particularly, as it pertains to meth.

It is remarkable to think of the fact that nearly 200 people lose their lives every day to drug overdose in this country.  We have literally an epidemic of drug abuse and addiction.

But here in Montana — as Senator Daines has helped take to the national level — we recognize that the challenges that you face with meth have presented a unique burden on families and in communities with heartbreaking results, and also driving not only health challenges, but law enforcement challenges.

It’s remarkable to think meth offenses skyrocketed by more than 300 percent here in Montana over the last five years.  Meth-related DUIs have increased by 300 percent as well.

All that being said, I know that all of you are on the frontlines.  And it’s the reason why I wanted to start my visit in Montana with each and every one of you, because we’re here to help.  And this President has taken decisive action, with the strong support of your delegation in Congress, to address the meth crisis here in Montana, and also to address the root causes.

I remember I was at a meeting on Capitol Hill when Senator Daines spoke about meth making its way across the southern border of the United States and how quickly it would be here in Billings, and impacting families, and driving drug abuse and addiction here in Montana.

And I want to commend you for the legislation that you authored and this President was pleased to sign.  We’ll be visiting a very special facility later today that — because of Senator Daines’s work and Congressman Gianforte’s support, that we’ve been able to now give people treatment, and to be able to stay with their families as they’re treated for drug abuse and addiction.

I’m also pleased to report to you that, as a result of the strong stand that President Trump took just two weeks ago, that Mexico is now poised to do more than they’ve ever done before to secure our southern border.  We reached an agreement for Mexico to deploy 6,000 of their National Guard to their southern border, to have checkpoints throughout Mexico, to intervene when people or nefarious trade is making its way through their country.

And also, we arrived at an agreement that allows us to return 100 percent of all the Central Americans who come across our southern border seeking asylum — to have them remain in Mexico while they’re being processed.

We believe that this will contribute significantly to alleviating the crisis at our southern border and allowing our Customs and Border Protection personnel to be able to be even more effective in interdicting the drugs coming across our border.

I mean, we have a crisis at our southern border.  It is — 144,000 people came into our country illegally and applied for asylum in the month of May alone.  And those are just the people that either turned themselves in or were apprehended.  But as the law enforcement community here in Montana knows and understands, those are just the people that we caught.  And that volume of people coming across our border simply gives the drug cartels even greater opportunity to move meth and other drugs across our southern border.

So I want assure you that this new agreement, we believe, is going to contribute not just to ending the crisis at our southern border, but we believe that as a result of President Trump’s strong leadership and the agreement we reached with Mexico, that it’s going to contribute to our ability to impact the flow of drugs into our country, across the southern border and that make their way here to Montana as well.

We’re building a wall.  We’re providing additional resources.  We’re working with the Congress, as we speak, to provide even more support at our southern border.

But it’s important that people in Montana know that we don’t have just a crisis at our southern border.  We have a crisis at our southern border that’s creating and contributing to a drug epidemic all across our country.

And I want to assure you that we’re going to continue to work earnestly to secure our border.  We’re going to continue to partner with the HIDTA program and other programs all across this country, with local law enforcement, to address this issue.

We want to be tough on those that are profiting from the sale of drugs that are tearing apart our families and our communities.  And we’ll continue to do that, but we also recognize that we can’t arrest our way out of this problem.  And I really do want to, again, commend RiverStone Health Clinic and all of the communities that are really coming alongside families that are caught up in drug abuse and addiction here in Montana.

But I’m here to learn more about how we can even provide more support to the great state and local leadership that’s represented here.  I want to thank you all for your time.  I look forward to your presentation.

And, Senator Daines, thank you again for inviting me to Montana.  And thank you for your leadership on the national stage — not just to confront drug abuse and addiction here in Montana, but to make it more possible for us to be more effective and to really bring more help to families all across this country.  The President and I are truly grateful.

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