Annual march against drugs, violence in Billings focuses on prescriptions

Posted at 9:59 AM, Jun 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-10 11:59:49-04

The March Against Drugs and Violence started in 1997, with 12 people, including kids in a little red wagon.

About 250 came out for this year’s march on the Yellowstone County courthouse lawn on Saturday.

Rev. Melvin Terry of All Nations Christian Fellowship Church gave the opening prayer.

The 21st annual March Against Drugs and Violence focused on problem prescriptions.

"So often, addiction doesn’t start off with meth and heroin,” said Adam Liberty, community engagement coordinator at the at the Friendship House of Christian Service.  “Addiction starts off usually with a casual attitude and access to prescription pills."

"Each day more than 46 people die in the United States from overdoses involving prescription opioids," said Billings Mayor Bill Cole.

"We have lost approximately 100 of our citizens to opioid overdose, be it to prescription drugs, heroin of fentanyl," said Billings Police Chief Rich St. John.

"We recognize at the DEA that we’re not going to be able to arrest our way out of this problem,” said Travis Birney of the DEA. “Treatment, prevention, these are all things that have been kind of on the back burner for us for so many years. We’re recognizing now that it has to come to the forefront."

"I have over two years clean and sober,” Ronday Smith said about overcoming an addiction. “And I do hope today sharing my story that I‘ve helped someone. that I’ve given someone hope."

"My challenge to you today is to go home, lock up your prescription drugs,” said Yellowstone County Commissioner Denis Pitman. “If you’re not using them, get rid of them."

Councilman Mike Yakawich founded the march.

More than 25 organizations, agencies and individuals are involved in the organizing.