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Gianforte attends fentanyl action meeting in Butte

Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher speaks during a fentanyl action team meeting on Tuesday (Photo: NBC Montana){p}{/p}
Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher speaks during a fentanyl action team meeting on Tuesday (Photo: NBC Montana)

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Gov. Gianforte and First Lady Susan Gianforte paid a visit to the Butte on Tuesday, where they heard from local leaders on how they are addressing the fentanyl crisis.

At the fentanyl action team meeting, Gianforte listened to concerns from elected officials, law enforcement, health care professionals, and others who presented ideas to stem the tide of opioid overdoses.

Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher said this calendar year, six local residents have lost their lives due to fentanyl.

"I've had a college teammate that lost his son," said Gallagher. "I've had a former student that died from taking one pill. And these aren't your known drug addicts that are losing their lives. And not that that's okay that a known drug addict loses his life, but these are our friends kids, young adults that have families and things that are really impacting us greatly."

One expert highlighted the need for more providers to help people struggling with drug addiction.

“Licensure requirements for behavioral health providers is top of mind," said Dr. Shawna Yates, Southwest Montana Community Health Center executive director. "We’re really struggling to find behavioral health providers. Lots of locations we can be placing people, but it’s a lot to get people trained and fully licensed.”'

Yates also urged for test strips for fentanyl to not be considered drug paraphernalia, but it is unclear if a change in categorization would come from the state government or a decision for federal officials.

"Our door is open,” Gianforte said to NBC Montana after the meeting. "We’ve made some connections today between our policy staff and local leaders. I'll continue to do public safety roundtables. I held one here in Butte-Silver Bow a month ago. So, our door is open, and as we find things that work, we look forward to acting on them.”

One local effort that will begin by mid-Nov. is described as a “shock” advertising campaign to warn residents, especially teenagers and young adults, about the dangers of fentanyl. The initial funding is coming from a $100,000 charitable grant from Town Pump, and ads will be seen on social media and on billboards.

"What we're going to be doing is a strong social media presence," said Bill McGladdery, Town Pump Director of Corporate Communications. "We're going to be using Device ID, Youtube -- both six second and 15 second non-skippable spots -- Spotify, Snapchat, and Hoola ... We're going to be developing a website for a landing page to direct people to, we'll be developing a Facebook page that will be more geared towards the secondary audience. We need to reach parents, we need to reach grandparents, we need to reach aunts and uncles."

The campaign will also include speeches and outreach to students.

At the end of the meeting, Father Patrick Beretta, Priest of the St. Patrick and Immaculate Conception Churches Parish, made a plea to the Gov. to ensure this battle against opioid overdoses doesn't turn into a political football.

"So that people who are at this table can work well together, take this crisis personally, and come up with some solutions," said Beretta. "And the response from the community has been overwhelming. Almost, there is an abundance that is hard to manage. The number of people who are reaching out to each one of us to say 'I'm willing to help, what can I do?' is incredibly encouraging to me."

The next action team meeting is scheduled for Oct. 17.

"On the 17th, we're bringing the whole community action team, anybody that was part of that first meeting, together," said Gallagher. "And we're going to do a training here. And we're working with the Montana Public Health Institute to develop a strategic plan for our community. It's bigger than just our shock campaign. It's about harm reduction in our community, it's about partnerships that we're going to do with different organizations."

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