The fight against drugs and violence is an all-encompassing non-partisan issue that our community is working on together. In that spirit, our Substance Abuse Connect coalition was tremendously honored to participate in Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Billings. What an extraordinary opportunity!
The meeting came together quickly under the leadership of Senator Daines. Thank you to everyone who made the logistics fall into place: first and foremost Senator Daines and his staff (special shout out here to Tory Kolkhorst and Jason Thielman). On our end United Way worked with our project manager, Becky Bey (KLJ Engineering) and Kurt Alme, US Attorney for the State of Montana, to help Senator Daines achieve his goal to bring attention to the meth crisis in Montana, including featuring the work of our Substance Abuse Connect coalition. Our partners RiverStone Health and Rimrock were key in playing host, and Rimrock was able to provide a tour of one of their programs.
- We participated in a twenty minutes private briefing with the Vice President, Senator Daines, Representative Gianforte, and HHS Deputy Secretary, Erik Hargan. Thank you to Kurt Alme and the staff of Senator Daines for helping to facilitate the briefing as a meaningful exchange. After the Vice President and Senator Daines kicked off the conversation, Kurt and Kristin Lundgren, our Director of Impact were able to share the need, purpose, and accomplishments of the Substance Abuse Connect coalition. Ken Trottier, Criminal Investigator for Fort Peck, and Rynalea Pena, Tribal President Northern Cheyenne, also shared the impacts of the meth crisis in Indian country. We know it hit home, because the Vice President and others referenced our stories and statistics in their remarks.
- They were very interested in our unique cross-sector collaboration and the fact that we have enforcement, prevention, treatment, healthcare, local government, and private sector business pulling in one direction.
- They are aware that solving our drug crisis requires this kind of unprecedented collaborative leadership, and attention to reducing demand in addition to enforcement.
- Following the private briefing, the Vice President, Senator Daines, Representative Gianforte, and HHS Deputy Secretary Erik Hargan addressed a small community audience and the local press. Our coalition leadership and a representative sample of the whole coalition were part of the audience. Also present was a great representation from our business community, city and county government, healthcare, prevention, treatment, enforcement, recovery, tribal partners, family service providers, schools, and early childhood professionals. THANK YOU to each and every leader who took hours out of their day to attend the presentation.
- Additional highlights include:
- Being in the building of one of our leadership partners, RiverStone Health! Washington was certainly impressed with this Federally Qualified Health Center and the role they play in addressing substance abuse. Thank you to John Felton and a shout out to our Substance Abuse Connect leader from RiverStone, Heather Fink!
- Having our leadership partner, Rimrock, prominently featured, with Lenette Kosovich opening the general audience event, and hosting the Vice President and his wife afterward for a tour of Willow Way. We are so lucky to have Lenette and Rimrock’s leadership and programming in our community!
- The work of our local Police Department to provide security for this event, and for helping to build the Substance Abuse Connect coalition through the use of discretionary HIDTA funds from the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Thank you Chief St. John.
This is a moment to celebrate! You can listen to the remarks of the dignitaries here: https://www.facebook.com/Q2News/videos/351537502223439/
More opportunities are coming for us to continue to be a trailblazer in tackling the drug crisis. Stay tuned!