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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.

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