South Dakota governor defends ads suggesting the state is on meth

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Republican Gov. Kristi Noem defended the widely mocked ad campaign, vowing to take the meth crisis seriously.

On Monday, South Dakota's state government launched its new anti-meth campaign, a website series of billboards and ads and a new website using the trademarked slogans: "Meth. We're on it." and "Meth. I'm on it."

After the slogan drew mockery online, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) jumped to defend the campaign.

"Hey Twitter, the whole point of this ad campaign is to raise awareness. So I think that’s working... #thanks #MethWeAreOnIt," she tweeted on Monday evening.  

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"Meth is IN SD," she wrote in a later tweet. "Twitter can make a joke out of it, but when it comes down to it - Meth is a serious problem in SD. We are here to Get. It. OUT."

The $449,000 ad campaign — part of a larger $1.4 million contract with a Minnesota-based advertising firm, paid for by the state's Department of Social Services — features images of various people alongside the slogans. In smaller print, they note, "There's a problem in South Dakota and we all need to get on it. Because together we can get meth out of here."

The campaign went viral, with criticism of the fact that it could be read as bragging, jokes about Mt. Rushmore, rejected alternative slogan ideas, and the need for an intervention for the ad campaign.

While opioid addiction has received a lot of attention in the past few years, South Dakota's primary addiction problems are with methamphetamine, Noem wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar last week.

"Last year, drug arrests hit their highest point in a decade. In 2011, there were 402 meth arrests in South Dakota," she wrote. "Last year, that number saw an 816 percent increase – our dedicated law enforcement officers made 3,684 arrests that led to the seizure of 45,918 grams of meth."

But before becoming governor earlier this year, Noem served several terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. There, Noem voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which contains provisions that ensure that people recovering from meth and other types of substance addiction have access to doctors and treatment.

Experts have warned that repealing the ACA would undermine state addiction efforts and reverse years of progress.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.