Dollars and sense 

One might say there are thousands of reasons why University of Western Australia researcher David Erceg-Hurn declined Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s invitation to discuss the psychologist’s critical study of the Montana Meth Project. Round trip airfare from Perth, Australia to Helena during the holiday season runs about $3,300, including taxes and terminal fees.

According to Erceg-Hurn, the governor’s office doesn’t have the cash to front the pricey winter getaway—though, it’s actually summer in Perth—and neither does the doctoral candidate. In a Dec. 18 letter, Schweitzer invited Erceg-Hurn to discuss his findings with the legislature. Schweitzer’s proposed 2009 budget currently calls for a $500,000 appropriation to help fund the controversial anti-drug campaign.

“It is encouraging that the governor appears to be keen on critically evaluating the funding of meth prevention in Montana,” the researcher writes in an e-mail. “It is unlikely that I will be able to make it to Montana in person, in part due to my own substantial prior commitments in January/February, and partly due to funding issues. As a postgraduate student, I certainly do not have the money to cover the cost of the trip from Australia to Montana.”

Erceg-Hurn recently made waves across the state with a pointed reinterpretation of the Montana Meth Project’s own data. The report, published in the December issue of Prevention Science, asserts the conclusions presented to legislators on the project’s efficacy were sugarcoated to attract state and federal dollars.

The Montana Meth Project, which has been copied in other states since the campaign started in 2005, attempts to use graphic images to scare teens away from experimenting with methamphetamines. Proponents of the campaign, including executive director Peg Shea, have criticized Erceg-Hurn’s review as “limited.”
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