HELENA – Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock on Tuesday announced the formation of a task force to develop a strategy to combat prescription drug abuse.
Bullock said 321 Montanans died of prescription drug overdoses in 2008, more than the 229 that died in motor vehicle crashes.
“It’s clear that we must act now,” Bullock said. “While prescription drug abuse isn’t something we talk about at the dinner table, it’s quietly killing hundreds of Montanans every year and, through addiction, it’s destroying the lives of thousands more.”
The 18-member task force includes physicians, pharmacists, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, a judge and lawmakers. It will meet regularly in the coming months to develop a plan, Bullock said.
Among the members are physicians Bill Gallea and Andrew Michel of Helena and Michael Metzger of Billings; nurse Trudy Mizner of Missoula along with Gallatin County Sheriff Jim Cashell, Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir and Billings Police Chief Rich St. John.
Also on the council are Starla Blank of Helena, chair of the Montana Pharmacy Association; narcotics investigators Mark Long of Helena and Russ Papke of Kalispell; attorneys Wyatt Glade of Miles City, Ryan Rusche of Wolf Point and Fred Van Valkenburg of Missoula along with District Judge Thomas McKittrick of Great Falls, who founded the 8th Judicial District Adult Drug Treatment Court Program in 2005.
Other council members are Sen. Trudi Schmidt of Great Falls, Rep. Tom Berry of Roundup, Karl Rosston of Helena, the suicide prevention coordinator for the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, and Joseph Doyle of Hardin, state president for the Montana Association of Student Councils
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