Legislators Call For ‘Montana Meth Summit’ Amid Growing Drug Problem

Stakeholders to gather in Helena on Feb. 18 for informational meeting

By Justin Franz
The Montana State Capitol. Beacon File Photo

Two state senators are organizing the “Montana Meth Summit” to gather stakeholders in Helena to discuss the state’s growing drug problem.

State Sen. Eric Moore, R-Miles City, and Sen. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, announced that they will be holding an informational meeting on Feb. 18 at the Capitol Building to discuss the influx of dangerous drugs in Montana. The meeting will include representatives from the Department of Corrections, Office of the Public Defender, Child Protective Services, the Judicial Branch and law enforcement from across the state.

“We need to coordinate our efforts to fight this growing drug problem,” Moore said.

Drug use is surging across the state, according to law enforcement and health officials. According to the Northwest Montana Drug Task Force, local law enforcement agencies across the Flathead are confiscating methamphetamine at levels not seen since the height of the crisis that spurred the Montana Meth Project prevention programs.

In response to the epidemic, state and federal legislators passed laws making it harder to obtain the ingredients to make methamphetamine. Back in the early 2000s, much of the meth in Montana was made at a local level. Efforts to make it harder to produce meth, along with education programs, helped lower the number of users across the state. According to the Montana Department of Justice, teen meth use dropped 44.6 percent from 2005 to 2007 and meth related crime dropped 62 percent between 2004 and 2007.

“We made a lot of progress combating the drug a decade go and if we did it once I think we can do it again,” Moore said.

The state’s drug problem has impacted services and agencies across Montana. The court system is overburdened with a growing number of drug-related cases, a large percentage of the children in foster care are there as a result of parents struggling with addiction, and the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome has surged in the northwest part of the state.

While methamphetamine labs are rare anymore, large quantities of the drug are now coming from Mexico.

Moore said the point of the “Meth Summit” is to get ideas of how the state can combat the problem. He hopes the listening session will eventually lead to the development of legislation.

“I don’t think there is a quick fix to this problem or a single piece of legislation that could resolve this problem, but I do know that we must coordinate our efforts,” he said.