HELENA – A round table discussion in Helena Tuesday afternoon focused on issues federal and state law enforcement officials face, especially illegal drugs like meth, prescription pills and heroin.
Congressman Greg Gianforte and Attorney General Tim Fox hosted the discussion at the Attorney General’s office. Representatives from Montana Highway Patrol, as well as from the Division of Criminal Investigation and the Forensic Science Division, were there.
Much of the conversation focused on meth and the methods Mexican drug cartels use to get it into Montana.
Officials like Bryan Lockerby with the Division of Criminal Investigation said it’s going to take a team effort from law enforcement at the local, state and national levels to combat the cartels.
“If we don’t respond the way we should, with a one team, one fight kind of response, we’re gonna be in trouble and we’re going to lose this thing,” he said.
“It was interesting to see the corridors of the drugs, coming from Mexico, into our Montana communities,” Gianforte said.
Law enforcement officers said they continue to need more funding from federal grants to help fight the meth epidemic in Montana.
Last year, the state received a $466,000 Paul Coverdell Forensic Improvement grant, a $310,000 NIJ Medical Examiner grant and a $480,000 CDC Opiates grant.
They said more resources like treatment courts would help, as well as increased drug education for children.
According to data from the Montana Department of Justice, there was a 375% increase in unattended deaths from methamphetamine from 2011 to 2017.
The data also indicates there was a 650% increase in unattended deaths from heroin from 2011 to 2017.
Law enforcement at the round table discussion praised the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative led by the U.S. Department of Justice.
They also said they are encouraged by federal support of HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) programs and Byrne Jag grants.