Methamphetamine & Opioid Response Initiative
There has been an increase in rates of violent crime and drug abuse, particularly methamphetamine abuse, in Yellowstone County in recent years. While there are many organizations and non-profits working to help individuals and families struggling with addiction, much work still needs to be done.
In July 2018, the Billings Metro VISTA Project began a three-year AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) project to better understand and begin addressing the issues. The goal of the Methamphetamine & Opioid Response Initiative is to reduce the use of methamphetamine and opioids in our community. VISTA members Nick Fonte and Amy Trad worked in collaboration with the Substance Abuse Connect Coalition (coordinated by the United Way of Yellowstone County), the Billings Police Department, and numerous other local non-profits and addiction treatment facilities to gather vital data and inform the community about the current state of the city’s battle with drugs and substance abuse.
AmeriCorps VISTA members, Amy Trad and Nick Fonte, filmed their presentation, Opioids & Methamphetamine in Billings, Montana,at Community 7 Television in Billings. Watch the video by clicking Opioids & Methamphetamine in Billings, Montana.
AmeriCorps VISTAs Amy Trad and Nick Fonte concluded their year of service by compiling a Meth and Opioid Assessment Report - FINAL.
Since the publication of the Methamphetamine and Opioid Assessment Report, efforts are now focused on substance abuse prevention in Yellowstone County. Prevention of "first use" is the most upstream approach to tackling this national crisis. For every $1 spent on prevention programs for school-aged youth, an average of $15 is returned on the investment (Substance Abuse Prevention Dollars and Cents: A Cost-Benefit Analysis / https:/www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/cost-benefits-prevention.pdf).
Below are prevention materials created by VISTA Rob Hulsey:
During the final year of the initiative, AmeriCorps VISTA Sophie Czerwinski took on capacity building activities to address service gaps identified in the Community Assessment Report. She engaged regularly with the Yellowstone County Substance Abuse Connect Coalition and several additional organizations to understand the current mental health services offered for the addiction recovery community in Billings. With the informed guidance of stakeholders and community members, Sophie designed and piloted the Dive.ART project. This project consisted of a series of free workshops that provided art opportunities for the addiction recovery community and promoted art as a positive processing tool, stress-coping mechanism, and story-telling agent.
In July 2021, Dive.ART culminated with an art auction at Kirk’s Grocery Art Gallery and raised funds for Passages Women's Pre-release Center and the Downtown Billings Alliance to enable future art for health projects. Dive.ART created a way for service providers to incorporate art into more traditional therapy practices and has inspired continued prioritization of art as an educational, prevention, and intervention strategy. Because of resources leveraged, providers will also have increased access to materials for similar workshops and use of art within their practices going forward.
AmeriCorps VISTAs Nick Fonte and Amy Trad presented seven months of research and findings on the current state of Billings’ methamphetamine and opioid issues to:
- The Community Innovations Group at the Billings Public Library on February 20, 2019. Approximately 40-45 community members attended.
- The Mayor and City Council in the Council Chambers on March 18, 2019. Their presentation was aired live on Community Channel 7. Available Presentation.
These presentations included important information about methamphetamine and opioids, drug crime data from the Billings Police Department, individual survey data, and standardized youth survey data from across the state of Montana. View their PowerPoint presentation by clicking Meth & Opioids in Billings Montana PowerPoint.