Reg. Meth Task Force Wants Fight On Front Burner

Reg. Meth Task Force Wants Fight On Front Burner
Posted by FoM on February 19, 2000 at 20:23:09 PT
By Pat Bellinghausen Of The Gazette Staff 
Source: Billings Gazette
There's strength in numbers and collaboration in the fight against illegal drugs, members of a regional methamphetamine task force agreed at their monthly meeting Friday in Billings. Getting this task force together on a regular, frequent basis lends support to local anti-drug efforts, said Bonnie Pipe, a chemical dependency counselor who works in Lame Deer. 
Sharing information and strategies with the group helps keep the momentum going for combating the methamphetamine problem, she said. Progress has been made, Pipe told the group and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who was linked to a brief portion of the meeting by telephone. A survey conducted on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation recently indicated that 82 percent of the community knows what methamphetamine is and what it does to people. This level of awareness didn't exist three years ago when the methamphetamine epidemic was well underway and the task force was just getting started, Pipe said. Lame Deer recently received approval for a drug testing program and is starting a drug court, Pipe said. Drug courts, which already are operating in Bozeman, Poplar, Sheridan, Wyo., and some other communities across the country, can divert addicts from the criminal justice system into treatment and require them to complete it. This task force, which began meeting in response to a sudden surge in methamphetamine addiction, has drawn participation from private and governmental agencies throughout Montana and Wyoming. On Friday, the 20 people gathered in the Bureau of Indian Affairs conference room represented chemical dependency treatment programs from the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap reservations as well as the Indian Health Board in Billings, Rimrock Foundation, Mental Health Center, BIA social services, the U.S. attorney's office, Montana state Child Protective Services, Montana probation and parole office and state Chemical Dependency Bureau. Methamphetamine abuse is widespread, task force members said. "It is affecting every part of our communities," said Rhonda Stennerson, a chemical dependency counselor at the Mental Health Center in Billings. "It is in our workplaces. It is in our schools. It's crossing all barriers. All types of people are using it." A Child Protective Services caseworker pointed out that law enforcement alone won't deter drug abuse: "For every drug dealer arrested, there are two or three out there to take his place. I think we need to look at prevention." Bob Pumphrey of BIA social services said that law enforcement officers and social workers need training on dealing with people who are using methamphetamine. He suggested that the task force help organize a training conference. Some members of the group said they want to move ahead with community projects, but the group has mostly concentrated on gathering and sharing information. In committee meetings earlier Friday, task force members listed some of the needs for addressing Montana's drug problems: Designation of the state as a High Density Drug Trafficking Area. This designation by the Office of National Drug Control Policy would make Montana eligible for additional anti-drug funds. Long-term detoxification services for methamphetamine addicts. Treatment professionals have said that it takes a matter of weeks for meth to clear from the brain so that people are capable of focusing on treatment. Housing for addicts before and after treatment. Longer addiction treatment for women who have dependent children. Adolescent treatment. Prevention.Baucus pledged to help the task force in efforts to procure grants and to obtain the HDTA status. He repeatedly urged the group to set specific, achievable targets for reducing methamphetamine abuse in the next two to five years. While methamphetamine remains the primary illegal drug in the region, some chemical dependency counselors at the meeting reported recently seeing clients who are addicted to heroin. Denna Vandersloot of the Mental Health Center said some people are abusing both methamphetamine and heroin. Ken Mordan of the state Chemical Dependency Bureau reported that an increase in heroin abuse may follow widespread methamphetamine abuse. The regional methamphetamine task force scheduled its next meeting for 10 a.m. March 17 in the BIA conference room in the federal courthouse. Pat Bellinghausen can be reached at 657-1303 or at pbelling billings Updated: Saturday, February 19, 2000Copyright  The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.Related Articles:Report Finds Surge in U.S. Meth Use Threat Growing in Northwest, White House Says Meth Seizures Expose Rural Drug Epidemic 
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