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Montana Meth Project launches statewide art contest

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RONAN —  Signs displaying the Grim Reaper, cemeteries and the mantra, “Not even once,” have recently crept up along Ronan and Polson streets.

The anti-meth signs are part of the Montana Meth Project’s state-wide art competition called Paint the State. Prompting artistically inclined teenagers to paint signs depicting the horrors of the drug, the competition is designed to educate teens and communities about the dangers of meth. 

“I think (the Montana Meth Project is) the biggest reason we have seen a decline,” Ronan Police Officer Chad Brown said. 

Since 2005, the project has been attempting to rid Montana of meth through the medium of media and projects such as Paint the State. The project uses saturation-level advertising to reach Montana’s teens through radio, billboards, television and the Internet.

And the graphic advertising seems to work. 

The project reported a 63 percent decrease in teen meth use since the project began in 2005. 

Ronan has also experienced a drastic decline of methamphetamine cases in the past five to six years, Brown explained. 

Brown also said that education continues to be an important aspect in keeping the community safe and healthy. 

So when the Ronan Police Department was approached by Charlo sisters Jodesa Brown, 14, and Sierra Brown, 11, to sponsor their meth sign project, the department jumped at the chance. 

The sisters worked with cousins Kiana Brown and Isaak Brown to create the sign. After the police department supplied the group with paints and paintbrushes, the crew went to work in early June. The creepy sign, complete with Grim Reaper and tombstones, now haunts southbound drivers along U.S. Highway 93 in front the Community Bank in Ronan. 

“I know some people who do meth and I want to try stopping it,” Jodesa Brown said. “I know it’s not a good thing.”

Another contestant, Hunter Shima,16, designed his Hotel Meth sign around the slogan, “Meth users check in but they don’t check out.” The sign displays the Grim Reaper beckoning visitors to a dark hotel.

“I know drugs are a big problem in this area,” Shima said. “And I want to spread the word about the dangers of meth.”

The signs will be displayed until July 23 and the competition’s winners will be announced in Helena on Aug. 20. The statewide winner will receive $5,000, and prizes will be awarded to each of Montana’s 56 counties. First place county winners will receive $1,500, second place county winners will receive $1,000, and third-place winners will receive $500.

“I’m really happy to see the signs around,” Chad said. “I think it’s a great project.”

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