Governor Gianforte discusses public safety with Flathead County officials

KALISPELL — Governor Greg Gianforte met with local officials, law enforcement and healthcare providers to discuss public safety in Flathead County amid increased drug interdiction in Montana.

“I don’t need to tell anyone that we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the amount of drugs entering our communities,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said.

As the number grows, the governor’s goal is to find out what’s working, what’s not working, and what can be done at the state level to help.

“Montana law enforcement has confiscated more fentanyl in the first six months of this year than in the previous three years combined. This is having a real impact,” Gianforte said.

Law enforcement and prosecutors in Flathead have seen an increase in violent calls and robbery calls correlating to increased drug use in the community.

“I would put a percentage of about 70% of the crimes that we face are drug fueled and it’s drug crimes themselves to property crimes to other things,” said Travis Ahner, Flathead County District Attorney.

A big topic discussed during Thursday’s panel discussion was the need to anticipate the drug problem and start promoting prevention at a younger age.

“Prevention, treatment and aftercare are kind of the path we hope to establish. I think it’s imperative that we start implementing prevention at a very young age, you know, about how addiction development and all that stuff happens, right? said Chad Kingerly of the Alpenglow Clinic.

Local leaders would also like to implement increased penalties for first crimes, establish local task forces and increase treatment programs. In order to accomplish these things, the entities that were present must work together.

“We’re also busy with growth and population that we’re kind of focusing on our own silo. But it’s very obvious that it’s not effective, and so from prosecution to rehabilitation to incarceration, we have to work together,” said Jim Anderson of the Montana Department of Corrections.

Gianforte traveled the state to hold these discussions to develop a plan for the next legislative session.

Some programs will be created over the next year through the Department of Health and Human Services that will help address these issues, but there is still much to be done.

“It’s a moment when everyone is on deck,” concluded Gianforte.