Massive Meth Problem in Montana gets Help from New DPHHS Program
Here are some scary numbers.
In 2019, the annual methamphetamine-related death rate in Montana was 7.2 per 100,000 people, exceeding the national average of 5.7 per 100,000 people. Furthermore, over 65 percent of Child and Family Services Division substance-use related placements list methamphetamine as the primary drug.
However, there is another tool in the toolbox to help reduce the impact of opiod and methamphetamine abuse in Montana.
Zoe Bernard, Administrator of the Addictive and Mental Disorders Division of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services spoke to KGVO on Wednesday about a program with the acronym ‘TRUST’.
“The program is called TReatment of Users of STimulants or ‘TRUST’,” said Bernard. “It's the first evidence based program for treating those who are using stimulants including methamphetamine. We're pretty excited because Montana Medicaid has put a component of the trust program into our Medicaid waiver request to the federal government and if that is approved, we will be able to pay for TRUST for all Medicaid members across the state that need it.”
Bernard described the program.
“TRUST is an intensive outpatient treatment model and it has multiple components to it,” she said. “The ones that don't surprise people so much are that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a core component of it. But something that does surprise people to hear about it is that physical exercise is a component of it, because physical exercise has been shown to really help people who have a stimulant use disorder.”
Bernard provided the troubling statistics about opiod and especially methamphetamine use in Montana.
“Opioids still account for the largest percentage of drug overdose doses in the state, but methamphetamine related deaths, hospitalizations and emergency department visits have all increased over the last two years,” she said. “And about 13,000 Montanans used meth in the 10 year period between 2009 and 2019.”
Bernard said meth, especially combined with fentanyl, has proven to be deadly in Montana.
“Montana's death rate from methamphetamine is significantly higher than the national average, and methamphetamine leads to the majority of substance use disorder related removals for Child and Family Services,” she said. “Also of note is that clinical studies have shown that methamphetamine use actually doubles the risk of violence or aggression compared to not using stimulants.”
Bernard said the Montana families that have meth users should visit their local pharmacy and have Naloxone on hand, a lifesaving remedy for a methamphetamine overdose.
“I think it's really important that if someone is listening and they or someone they love is using either opiates or methamphetamine that they get hold of some Naloxone from their pharmacy,” she said. “That's something that they can talk to their pharmacist about or to their doctor and have the Naloxone available because it is incredibly effective and it's fast and it's easy to use.”
Bernard said the success of the program will be measured by a reduction in mental health symptoms, decreased use of stimulants, increased retention in treatment, changes in risky behaviors, decreased criminal justice involvement, and positive changes in overall health, including social connectedness and quality of life.
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