Montana’s ballooning meth epidemic is overwhelming state law enforcement, addiction treatment centers, and the criminal justice system.
That was the theme of the Montana Meth Summit - a bipartisan gathering of state lawmakers, agency officials, and members of the public held at the capitol on Saturday.
Missoula Democratic Senator Diane Sands, a co-organizer, said the goals of the meeting were to raise public awareness, and shed light on more holistic ways to tackle the problem.
“We need to move away from thinking this is all about criminality or ‘just say no’ - and look at it as a cultural issue. One that our communities and our families have because of trauma…the lack of mental health services," Sands said. "So it is not a simple problem of just money, but changing our focus in how we look at the problem itself.”
Panelists on law enforcement, family and community impacts, tribal impacts, and corrections - echoed the need to put more resources into treatment and prevention while cutting off the drug supply before it gets into the state.
While many legislators felt the summit was a good starting point for carving out more coordinated solutions, some voiced concern that the state is not moving fast enough.
Democratic Representative Brad Hamlett of Great Falls said, “Get into this problem now, instead of later. Because you wait another two years, it’s just gonna blow up. It’s blowing up now. You wait, and it’s the kiss of death.”