HELENA – Montana is known for its natural beauty and close-knit communities, but in the Treasure State’s sparse population and expansive landscapes hides a growing problems with drugs, including methamphetamine.
When people think of drug use, they think about the user, but drugs, like methamphetamine, don’t just hurt the user, but the entire community.
The Missouri River Drug Task Force (MRDTF) is one of the agencies on the front lines tackling Montana’s meth problem.
“Our amount of complaints and calls from the public has increased. Neighbors will report suspicious activity,” said Danny David, Detective Sgt. MRDTF
Marco Philippe is a Helena Valley resident who worries about the impact meth might be having in his neighborhood. “I kind of know that there are drugs in this area I don’t like there being hard drugs in this area, stuff gets stolen from our backyards,” said Philippe.
Philippe, is not alone, Rachel Howard, a mother of two boys, recalled a recent incident on her street where she said meth was involved.
“We have two little kids that are outside playing on the sidewalks, just last week there was a high-speed car chase down this very public street. There were like 9 or 10 cop cars in tow of it and come to find out the driver was high on meth,” added Howard.
Late last month the task force and other law enforcement agencies issued a search warrant for an East Helena home. The SWAT Team arrested a 55-year-old man during the drug bust. Court documents stated that police found 50 grams of methamphetamine in the home that was located right across the street from Radley Elementary School.
In 2005, the Montana legislature passed a law, Senate Bill 287 sponsored by Democratic Senator Trudi Schmidt from Great Falls, that required medicine containing ephedrine, an ingredient commonly used in meth, to be kept behind the pharmacy counter and a log kept of who bought it.
The legislation temporarily reduced the number of meth properties reported in Montana. since 2010, however, a resurgence of meth in Montana has begun. The Montana Board of Crime Control released a report that shows meth cases are up 500 percent in the last five years.
The prevalent demand opened the door for the Mexican cartels to bring in meth to the state, as well as for meth to be cooked in a dangerous “shake-and-bake” method.
A Video from the Tulsa Oklahoma Police Department recorded in 2010 shows just how volatile this method is. The plastic shake and bake bottle exploded into flames. It left behind toxic trash and plastic bottles filled meth.
“It’s an eye-sore, there’s trash in the yard, there are broken down cars all over the place, there’s traffic all times of the night and day, but state leaders are aware of the resurgence of meth, and are addressing it.
In February a summit was held in Helena to look at how to curb the drug’s growing use. Leaders discussed options ranging from youth education and treatment to increased law enforcement.
“For those people who get caught up just in the addiction side we need real treatment options for them….and for the real bad guys, get them in jail and throw away the key,” said Ryan Lockerby, Montana DCI Administrator.
David said responsibility goes beyond law enforcement and state leaders to stop the problem. He said as a community we are all responsible, and the first step is being aware Montana has a drug problem, then together everyone can start moving towards change.