Fentanyl use in Lewis & Clark County

Posted at 6:14 PM, Aug 22, 2023

HELENA — So far in 2023, up through June 30, the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task forces have seized more than 286,000 doses of fentanyl in Montana, a record for the state.

That amount is a 52% increase over the entire amount seized last year. MTN wanted to see what that impact has looked like here in Lewis & Clark County.

“It's incumbent on our community to make sure that we are addressing the needs of the most vulnerable, that we are saving a life and getting folks pointed towards treatment,” says Director of Lewis & Clark County’s Criminal Justice Services, Kellie McBride.

According to the Lewis & Clark County Sheriff’s Office, there have been five overdose deaths due to opioids in the county so far this year. 4 of those have been fentanyl-related.

In the first half of this year in Lewis and Clark County, there were 23 reported opioid overdose ambulance responses.

With two free Narcan dispensing machines in town, one at the Law and Justice Center and another at Good Samaritan, there’s no real way to tell how many lives have been saved due to the opioid overdose-reducing drug, naloxone. So far, there have been 416 kits (which include 2 doses) taken from the Law and Justice Center location alone since its implementation in February.

Additionally, free fentanyl testing kits will eventually be available through Criminal Justice Services.

“All of these are necessary so that we can save lives, just, that's the bottom line. We need to be able to save lives. And once you save that life you can get that person, you have that opportunity to get that person into treatment moving forward in their treatment process,” says McBride.

The Department of Criminal Justice Services was created in 2017 to establish and implement voter-mandated programs that help to deal with behavioral health, early intervention, and pretrial services.

A recent report from the Criminal Justice Services mentions the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Bridges program that was implemented in 2021 to help those with opioid use disorders and create bridges between the detention center and community-based treatment providers. Since it began, 92 individuals have participated.

A three-year grant from the Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP), has helped care for those who lose their access to Medicaid when incarcerated, providing access to such things as medications and physician time.

Additionally, CJS also provides $40,000 annually to a drop-in center that services those recovering from addiction that are either involved in the criminal justice system or are at risk of involvement. This drop-in center provides such services as housing assistance, job application assistance, community groups, medication referrals, and more.

Overall, Lewis & Clark County is implementing these programs and services to help keep folks alive to combat their addiction and ideally create a new life free from opioid use disorder.

“And not that we're saying we want people to use this, but we still want people, we want people to be able to be saved,” says Undersheriff for Lewis & Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Brent Colbert.