MISSOULA—Missoula Substance Abuse Connect, a coalition created to develop a comprehensive community plan to reduce substance abuse, including methamphetamine-related violent crime, in Missoula County, has received a $248,000 federal grant as part of an overall initiative to fight violent crime, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy awarded initial funding of $248,000 through 2021 to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). Rocky Mountain HIDTA allocated the funds to the Missoula Police Department. The MPD will administer the grant through United Way of Missoula County, which is leading the Missoula Substance Abuse Connect effort.
Missoula Substance Abuse Connect is a coalition of more than 40 non-profit, business and government organizations working to reduce demand for meth by developing a drug prevention, treatment and recovery support plan for the community. The coalition was organized through the leadership of United Way and Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a U.S. Department of Justice initiative reinvigorated two years ago to reduce violent crime through enforcement and prevention.
Violent crime increased 49% from 2011 to 2017 in Missoula County. PSN, which focuses on prosecuting meth dealers, armed robbers, and violent offenders with firearms, began at the end of April 2018. Over the next two years, murders, robberies and aggravated assaults decreased 25 percent. Since COVID-19 arrived, however, those same violent crimes increased 40% for the seven months of April through October when compared with the same period last year.
As part of PSN Missoula County, federal, state and local law enforcement unanimously identified meth as the leading cause of the increase in violent crime. Since COVID-19 began, Millenium Health reported in July that urinalysis positivity rates for meth increased 34% in Montana.
“We are pleased the community received this grant, which funds an important part of PSN’s goal to reduce violent crime. Strong enforcement by our federal, state and local enforcement partners is critical to shutting down meth trafficking organizations that push this highly addictive drug, but it is not enough. We also need prevention and treatment services to help reduce demand. We are pleased to be part of Missoula Substance Abuse Connect.” U.S. Attorney Alme said.
“Drug enforcement is more effective if done in partnership with prevention and treatment programs that reduce demand. An epidemic of substance abuse – particularly meth use – is overwhelming local courts, jail and hospitals and is ravaging families. We must break this terrible cycle by providing greater access to effective prevention and treatment programs and support for people in recovery,” said Susan Hay Patrick, chief executive officer of United Way of Missoula County.
“This is an incredible opportunity for our community to collaborate on one of the most pressing challenges of our time—methamphetamine. Working together, we can prevent youngsters from ever using meth, provide local treatment for those struggling with addiction and prosecute and bring to justice drug dealers who come here to push meth,” said Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst.
“The Missoula Police Department is proud to be a part of Missoula Substance Abuse Connect. We look forward to the prevention and treatment opportunities this program will provide our community. Missoula Substance Abuse Connect, coupled with our enforcement efforts with our law enforcement partners, will help us reduce drug-related crimes in Missoula,” Missoula Police Chief Jaeson White said.
“The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office looks forward to this partnership with the United Way to provide assistance through Missoula Substance Abuse Connect to those in our community who are dealing with addictions and substance abuse issues. I’d also like to thank United Way of Missoula CEO Susan Hay Patrick for her efforts on this project,” Missoula County Sheriff TJ McDermott said.
Missoula Substance Abuse Connect will be managed by United Way of Missoula County and a volunteer board of business and community leaders. The project director is Shannan Sproull, who is an authority on substance abuse prevention with decades of experience in the public and private sectors. The project chair is Janna Lundquist, a respected organizational consultant and former United Way board president with an extensive background in business and nonprofit leadership. Project leaders are recruiting an executive committee and working group from among the 40 public and private coalition member organizations.
PSN Missoula County’s partners include the U.S. Attorney’s Office; Missoula County Attorney’s Office; Montana Department of Justice’s Prosecution Services Bureau, Highway Patrol and Division of Criminal Investigation; the Montana Department of Correction’s Adult Probation and Parole Division; the Missoula Police Department; the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office; Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Administration; FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Marshal’s Service.
For more information about Missoula Substance Abuse Connect, contact Susan Hay Patrick, CEO, United Way of Missoula County, susan@MissoulaUnitedWay.org; 406-360-0596.