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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Bill to fund missing persons response teams nears passage in the state House

Tyson Running Wolf
Montana Legislature

There were nearly 2,000 reports of missing persons in Montana last year. Two bills aimed at addressing this issue are nearing passage in the House.

Both bills have received bipartisan support and were requested by the State-Tribal Relations Committee. The bills are in response to findings from the Department of Justice’s Missing Persons Database that shows a need for more funding, training and collaboration on missing persons cases.

Representative Tyson Running Wolf from Browning, sponsored a bill to establish a grant program that would fund training for response teams.

“Response teams that are community based, search and rescue or other groups aren’t having the adequate training especially when it comes to that critical moment,” Wolf said.

A similar version of this bill was brought last session but died in the Senate standing committee due to funding concerns. Running Wolf said the latest version added a special account for the program to accept public and private donations and grants to help offset the state’s costs.

Another major finding from the DOJ database was that 80% of Montana’s missing persons are under the age of 18. Representative Lola Sheldon-Galloway from Great Falls sponsored a bill calling for an interim study of missing youth.

“We need more information from stakeholders and this bill will provide the opportunity to collect more information to study the problem,” Sheldon-Galloway said.

As part of the state’s overall effort to address missing persons, Sen. Bob Brown, from Trout Creek, also introduced a joint resolution this week calling on the U.S. Congress to fully fund law enforcement and public safety agencies on reservations.

The State-Tribal Relations Committee requested several other missing persons bills that will be introduced later in the session.

Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
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