December 31, 2016: 30-year-old female allegedly stabbed by a 28-year-old male outside of Glasgow, resulting in the woman’s death. The man admitted to consuming meth prior to the stabbing.
January 25, 2017: 31-year-old male shot and killed in a Helena motel parking lot. A pound of meth was found at the scene.
February 19, 2017: Two men lead law enforcement on a two-day manhunt near Big Timber following a traffic stop that resulted in the assault of a Highway Patrol Trooper. The men are suspected of trafficking meth.
Stories like these are all too common in Montana, and their frequency is growing. There is simply no ignoring the fact that the prevalence of dangerous drugs and substance abuse is crippling our state at an alarming rate.
I know firsthand that law enforcement at all levels of government in Montana are dedicated to combating the use and distribution of narcotics. My office has partnered with law enforcement across the state to make drug interdiction a top priority, focusing an enormous amount of time and effort on this front. But the fact remains that the overwhelming amount of illicit drug use outpaces current efforts by law enforcement. And this wave of dangerous drugs comes at an enormous cost.
During a time of lean state revenues, the upward financial pressure on Montana’s budget caused by illicit drug use is much more noticeable and impactful. More children involved with Child and Family Services, a greater caseload moving through our judicial system, rapidly growing populations in our corrections facilities—the list goes on and on. And with each additional dollar spent on growing populations for these reactive services comes a reduction in valuable resources elsewhere.
But while the “dollars and cents” cost is staggering, the financial toll to government budgets and economic activity pales in comparison to the lives affected by illicit drug use. It’s the little boy and girl who will never know their mother or father because of an overdose or homicide. It’s the parents who lost a child to drug fueled violence. It’s the teacher who lost a student due to drug stimulated abuse at home. The ripple effects of dangerous drugs touches each of our lives in some form or another.
On February 18, state senators Eric Moore, R-Miles City, and Diane Sands, D-Missoula, organized an informational meeting intended to elevate the solution discussion for combating dangerous drugs. I commend Senators Moore and Sands for their pro-active approach to bring stakeholders and policymakers together to curb Montana’s drug problem. It’s discussions like these that will produce results.
Over the next two years, my office will be spearheading an effort to develop a strategic plan that aims to combat the effects of dangerous drugs in Montana. The Department of Justice will work with a broad coalition of stakeholders to ensure the strategy actually produces results, rather than simply putting words on paper. And we’ve already started this process.
Last fall, I directed my staff to begin identifying state programs that focus on illicit drug use prevention, enforcement, treatment and monitoring. This comprehensive report, which will be available this fall, will be vital to pinpointing deficiencies in how we deal with addiction, identifying duplicative or wasteful efforts and developing a statewide, holistic response to these problems so lawmakers in the 2019 legislative session will have clear direction as to how my office’s strategic plan can be implemented.
Fighting the effects of dangerous drugs should be immune from partisan politics, as I believe we each have a moral obligation to do our part. I look forward to working with policymakers at every level of government to find solutions, and I encourage all Montanans to join me in this fight. When lives are at stake, we can’t move fast enough.
- Category: Guest Commentary
- Written by Time to Redouble Our Efforts to Combat Dangerous Drugs,Tim Fox, Montana Attorney General
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