Last Friday, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte announced Yellowstone County’s participation in the Angel Initiative, a program designed to provide better access to treatment services for those with a substance abuse disorder. 

Gov. Gianforte made the announcement alongside the Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) director Adam Meier, The CEO of the Rimrock Foundation, Leanette Kosovich, and Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder.

“By partnering with sheriffs and treatment providers across the state, we aim to reduce the stigma associated with treatment and guide more individuals on the path to recovery,” Gianforte said. The program’s current participating counties include Lewis and Clark, Cascade, and Yellowstone counties, with more joining the initiative soon. 

According to DPHHS, roughly 90,000 Montanans suffer from addiction, but only half actively seek treatment. The Angel Initiative aims to fill that gap to get treatment for individuals who need it. DPHHS also estimates that the annual methamphetamine-related death rate in Montana is about seven in 100,000 people, which exceeds the national average of about five in 100,000 people. 

The Montana Angel Initiative gives individuals struggling with drug addiction an opportunity to go into participating law enforcement offices and receive assistance in getting treatment. Using the “angel line,” law enforcement is connected with the nearest treatment provider to assess the level of care the person seeking treatment needs. If the individual qualifies for treatment, the initiative helps them get to the treatment center. 

Participants wanting to receive treatment let an officer know they need help and are screened for any disqualifiers from the program. Individuals must also turn in any drugs or drug-related paraphernalia and will not be investigated or charged for possessing it. Officers get the participant’s insurance and ID if it is available. 

Disqualifiers from the program include being an unaccompanied minor or a registered sex offender in any state. Other disqualifiers include having an outstanding or non-extraditable arrest warrant or if there is a belief the participant could cause harm to others at the treatment center. Getting treatment must also be a voluntary decision from the individual.