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Governor Gianforte convenes public safety roundtable

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News from the office of Governor Gianforte

BUTTE – On Aug. 24, Governor Greg Gianforte convened a public safety roundtable with local officials, treatment providers and law enforcement officers in Butte as the crisis at the U.S. southern border drives up drug interdictions, drug use and crime in Montana and throughout the country.

“Drug dealers, who work hand-in-hand with dangerous drug cartels to profit off of addiction and death in Montana, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Gov. Gianforte said. “While we hold these despicable criminals accountable, we’re also focused on investing in community-based treatment and prevention programs to help Montanans struggling with addiction.”

According to the Montana Department of Justice, Montana is on track to triple the amount of fentanyl seized this year from the record-breaking amount seized in 2021.

Silver Bow County Sheriff Ed Lester said they’ve seen a link between drug activity and crime in Silver Bow County.

“Over the past two years, there has been an increase in drug use in our area. We have also seen an increase in thefts and other property offenses associated with drug use,” Sheriff Lester said.  

Since taking office, the governor has prioritized increasing access to community-based treatment services for non-violent offenders to build safer, stronger communities, creating the HEART (Healing and Ending Addiction through Recovery and Treatment) Fund and Angel Initiative.

“From a business perspective, having a strong, safe, and healthy community is critical,” said J.P. Gallagher, chief executive of Butte-Silver Bow.

A collaborative effort among Governor Gianforte, DPHHS, participating law enforcement entities, and treatment providers, the Angel Initiative allows someone who is struggling with addiction and substance use to go into any participating law enforcement office and receive assistance to connected with treatment. To date, over 20 Montana sheriffs’ offices have committed to join the effort, including Silver Bow County.

The HEART Fund, introduced by the governor during his first week in office as a central component of his budget, invests $25 million per year to provide a full continuum of substance abuse prevention and treatment programs for communities.

District Judge Luke Berger underscored the importance of treatment during the roundtable, saying, “For nonviolent offenders, we want to look at alternative sentencing and prioritize treatment options to reduce recidivism.” 

Participants in the roundtable included Chief Executive of Butte-Silver Bow J.P. Gallagher, Silver Bow County Sheriff Ed Lester, Butte-Silver Bow Deputy Attorney Ann Shea, Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Luke Berger, Montana Highway Patrol (MHP) Captain Mark Wilfore, MHP Sgt. Dave Oliverson, Department of Public Health and Human Service’s Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Division Prevention Bureau Chief Mary Collins, Montana Department of Corrections Director Brian Gootkin, and Dan Parish, a local substance abuse specialist.

Gov. Gianforte convened similar roundtables focused on public safety with local officials in Billings, Missoula and Great Falls earlier this year.

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