Meth in the news 

Drug War

The vice president of Montana’s dominant newspaper publisher is now chairman of the state’s largest advertiser, following the Nov. 16 announcement that Michael Gulledge, vice president of Lee Enterprises and publisher of the Billings Gazette, has been appointed chairman of the Montana Meth Project (MMP).

Billionaire founder Tom Siebel, who launched the MMP in September 2005 as an aggressive statewide media campaign that graphically depicts the consequences of teenage methamphetamine use, announced the leadership change at a state capitol ceremony.

“It’s an honor to serve as chairman of an organization that has developed such an effective and impactful program,” said Gulledge, who’s served on the MMP’s advisory board since its inception. “The Project has done much for Montana’s fight against methamphetamine in a short time.”

Siebel also announced the launch of a $5 million matching grant from the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation to kick off a major capital campaign that will match private and corporate donations in an effort to steer the project toward self-sustainability. He said maintaining the program will cost about $6 million a year, including $2 million in state funding and $2 million in federal funds annually, and that public funding won’t affect the campaign’s graphic approach. Meanwhile, Gov. Schweitzer’s newly proposed budget includes $1 million for a media prevention campaign “such as the Montana Meth Project” and Sen. Max Baucus says he’ll work to secure federal dollars.

The MMP’s approach has garnered widespread media attention and acclaim from many of Montana’s elected officials, though some drug prevention experts worry the lurid ads mimic other unsuccessful anti-drug campaigns.

Peg Shea, the Missoula-based director of the MMP, says besides bringing on a new leader and launching an ambitious fund-raising campaign, the MMP will unveil its third round of ads and a new attitudes survey to gauge the campaign’s impacts in early 2007.

“It’s the perfect time for us to really own this as a group of Montanans and to see if we’re willing to move forward and sustain this,” Shea says.

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