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Press Release

Over $350,000 Awarded to Assist Yellowstone Connect Develop Drug Reduction Plan

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

BILLINGS—Yellowstone Substance Abuse Connect, a coalition organized to create a comprehensive community plan to reduce substance abuse in Yellowstone County, will be the beneficiary of a major federal grant awarded this week as part of a broader effort to fight violent crime in the community. 

Montana U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme on Thursday announced that the Office of National Drug Control Policy awarded $358,741 to the Eastern Montana High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Task Force (HIDTA Task Force).  The grant will be administered by the Billings Police Department on behalf of the HIDTA Task Force to fund the efforts of Yellowstone Connect.

Yellowstone Connect was organized through the leadership of United Way of Yellowstone County and Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), an enforcement initiative reinvigorated a year ago by the Department of Justice to reduce violent crime. Violent crime in Billings has increased 75 percent from 2010 through 2017, according to the Billings Police Department. 

As part of PSN Yellowstone County, federal, state and local law enforcement identified meth trafficking and use as the leading cause of the increase in violent crime.  Since April, PSN’s law enforcement partners have already made arrests leading to 90 individuals being charged with meth trafficking, armed robbery and illegal possession of firearms by felons and other prohibited persons.

Enforcement partners have recognized that more efforts in meth prevention, treatment and diversion also will be critical to turning the tide.

Yellowstone Connect will bring additional prevention, treatment and diversion to the initiative.  Yellowstone Connect formed in May and already has more than 60 enforcement, judicial, corrections, medical, mental health, treatment and prevention organizations.

“We are pleased that the community received this money which will fund a key part of PSN’s goal to reduce violent crime by fighting meth trafficking and use.  Vigorous enforcement is only part of the solution; we need the community’s help to reduce use through additional prevention, treatment and drug court diversion,” said U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme.

“I want to thank all our PSN federal, state and local law enforcement partners for their outstanding work to make this community safer, and especially the Billings Police Department for administering the HIDTA Task Force grants.  I also want to thank United Way of Yellowstone County for its work to launch this coalition, and all of our Yellowstone Connect partners for recognizing the important need in this community to reduce the demand for meth and committing to be part of the solution,” Alme said.

Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said, “Supported by this grant, we now will be able to improve the coordination and effectiveness of drug enforcement, treatment and prevention efforts in Yellowstone County. Yellowstone Connect will bring stakeholders together to combat the serious meth crisis in our community.”

Kristin Lundgren, United Way’s Director of Impact, said, “We are lucky to have the right leadership at the Yellowstone Connect table to make the most of this opportunity. We have the enforcement leadership from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Montana Attorney General’s Office and the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office and all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.  We have leadership from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and our local leaders in treatment, prevention and diversion.”

“In our community, who hasn’t been touched by addiction in some way—crime, family chaos, inability to find workers who can pass a drug test, kids in foster care, elder abuse and domestic violence?” Lundgren said.

The Yellowstone Connect funding will be used to hire a full-time coordinator to oversee the initiative. The initiative has four main strategies: to conduct a needs assessment to determine prevention, diversion and treatment needs and community resources; to develop a plan to get more people into treatment and diversion programs and to prevent addiction; to put the plan into action; and to share the plan and methods with other coalitions in HIDTA areas.

Lundgren said she expects Yellowstone Connect to have a coordinator hired by the early 2019.

For more information about Yellowstone Connect, contact Lundgren at 406-272-8505.

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Contact

Clair Johnson Howard
Public Affairs Officer
(406) 247-4623
Clair.Howard@usdoj.gov

Updated October 11, 2018

Topic
Project Safe Neighborhoods