KALISPELL — Governor Greg Gianforte convened with local officials, law enforcement, and treatment providers to discuss public safety in Flathead County amid the rise in drug interdiction in Montana.
“I don't have to tell anybody that we've seen a dramatic increase in the amount of drugs coming into our communities," said Governor Greg Gianforte.
As numbers rise, the governor's goal is to find out what's working, what is not, and what can be done at the state level to help.
“Montana law enforcement confiscated more fentanyl in the first six months of this year than we have in the prior three years combined. This is having a real impact," said Gianforte.
Flathead law enforcement and prosecutors have seen an increase in violent calls and theft calls in correlation to the increase in drugs in the community.
“I would put a percentage of about probably 70% of the crimes that we're dealing with are drug-fueled and that’s drug crimes themselves to the property crimes to other things," said Travis Ahner, Flathead County Attorney.
A big topic discussed at Thursday's round table was the necessity to get ahead of the drug problem and start promoting prevention at a younger age.
“Prevention, treatment, and aftercare is of the kind of the route of what we're hoping to establish. I think it's imperative that we start implementing prevention in a very young age, you know, about how the development of addiction and all that kind of stuff happens, right?” said Chad Kingerly with the Alpenglow Clinic.
Local leaders would also like to implement increasing the penalties for early crimes, establish local task forces and increase treatment programs. In order to accomplish these things, the entities that were in attendance must work together.
“We're also busy with the growth and population that we kind of focus on our own silo. But it's very evident that that's not effective, and so from prosecution to rehabilitation to incarceration, we've got to work together," said Jim Anderson with the Montana Department of Corrections.
Gianforte has been traveling around the state holding these discussions to make a plan for the next legislative session.
There are some programs that will be created within the next year, through the Department of Health and Human Services, that will help combat these issues but there is still a lot that needs to be done.
“This is an all-hand-on-deck moment," Gianforte concluded.