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drugs

L to R: Missoula County Sheriff TJ McDermott, Sen. Steve Daines and Lake County Sheriff Don Bell during a Missoula meeting about meth, April 18, 2019.
Edward O'Brien / Montana Public Radio

Montana’s Republican U.S. Senator was in Missoula Thursday. He invited police and prosecutors to share their concerns about Montana’s meth crisis.

Sen. Steve Daines wanted straight talk on methamphetamine’s impacts on western Montana. Regional law enforcement gave him plenty to chew on.

In an effort to keep people from returning to jail and prison, the 2017 Montana Legislature approved $400,000 in funding for a pilot program to help former inmates find stable housing when they’re released.
(PD)

Misti Liberti had few available housing options when she was released from jail last fall. Liberti sometimes resorted to couchsurfing with acquaintances she knew before her jail sentence; a big  gamble for someone who has spent years battling chemical dependency.

"When I got out I was kind of at the mercy of staying with people, and you put yourself in a risky environment sometimes. You just go back to what’s familiar," she says.

Alcohol, drug and suicide (combined) deaths per 100,000 people in 2017.
National Center for Health Statistics, CDC

A new analysis of the latest federal health statistics says that Montana had the second highest rates of deaths from alcohol in 2017, and substantial growth in its suicide rate that year as well.

Released Tuesday, the “Pain in the Nation Update” from the non-profits Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust says that when it came to growth in the number of deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide combined, Montana and New Jersey led the nation in 2017. Each state saw a greater than 15-percent increase in such deaths.


The dialogue around substance abuse and mental health disorders, when it happens at all, is often shrouded in shame, blame and guilt. An event in Missoula this weekend is aiming to change that, and also to celebrate people in recovery. 

Kirsten Pabst at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Missoula on July 19, 2018.
Maxine Speier

Last year the city of Missoula had 324 violent crimes, an increase of nearly 50 percent since 2011. Law enforcement say the meth epidemic is to blame, and Thursday announced that they’re addressing it with a local, state and federal partnership.

Missoula's Community Medical Center.
Courtesy

When Missoula’s not-for-profit Community Hospital was sold to a for-profit company three years ago, by law the proceeds from that sale had to be invested in a community foundation.

That $100 million investment is now starting to spin out grants aimed at improving health care for western Montana’s children and families. Edward O’Brien has more on the new Headwaters Foundation’s funding priorities.

Jennifer Munger holds a sign protesting state health deparment cuts in Helena, March 1, 2018. Munger says she's recently sober and wants other people with substance abuse issues to be able to get the same treatment she had.
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

Access to mental health services and addiction treatment, something that has never been great in Montana, could see a significant funding reduction next month as the state health department reduces its substance disorder services.

"If I wouldn’t have had that I probably wouldn’t be alive today. They saved my life," Jennifer Munger says.

Shards of methamphetamine hydrochloride, also known as crystal meth.
Radspunk (GFDL)

Montana’s health department is now sharing with prosecutors results of drug toxicology tests conducted on children suspected to have been exposed to drugs. The Department previously didn’t comply with this state law because they said doing so would jeopardize federal funding.

Health Department Director Sheila Hogan gave regional Child and Family Services supervisors Tuesday the go-ahead to share those toxicology reports with county attorneys.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.
Courtesy Montana DOJ

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox says the Montana County attorney who has implemented an immediate ‘crackdown’ on pregnant women found to be using drugs or alcohol never consulted with him.

Attorney General Tim Fox announcing a new report about drug abuse in Montana, September 19, 2017.
Corin Cates-Carney

A new report from the Montana Department of Justice released today says meth violations are up more than 500 percent in the last five years. And since 2010, heroin crimes are up more than 1,500 percent, contributing to Montana having the highest jail incarceration rate in the region.

The DOJ’s initial "Addressing the Impact of Drugs," or "AID" report provides a look into the data of Montanan’s use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs.

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