Governor Greg Gianforte, DPHHS Director Adam Meier and Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter launched the new Angel Initiative on Tuesday to help those in Montana with substance abuse issues.

Meier spoke to KGVO News on Wednesday about the new initiative.

“We are launching what's called the ‘Angel Initiative’ and we're starting it in Cascade County,” said Meier. “It’s an initiative that allows someone who's struggling with addiction and substance use to go into any participating law enforcement office, receive assistance and be connected to treatment. So it's an exciting partnership between the governor's office, the Department of Public Health and Human Services, and eventually various other law enforcement offices.”

Meier said law enforcement agencies will now be a starting point to help those struggling with substance abuse issues who genuinely want help.

“Looking at this program as it rolls across the state, it has been successful in other states in connecting people to treatment,” he said. “It lets law enforcement really get in on the front end of the issue. They're often the agencies asked to be the enforcement mechanism for substance use as people interact with them. This gives them a new way to get to interact to the community, as entry points for substance abuse and recovery.”

The major difference in this program is the voluntary aspect of the participants.

“Remember, it does have to be voluntary, so people have to come in on their own volition,” he said. “It's not something that can be court ordered. But if we can capture that moment in time when people are ready, and sometimes it's a fleeting point in time when people realize that they need help. If we can capitalize on that by making sure that we're increasing the access points with our participating law enforcement offices, then it provides another door and increases the likelihood that somebody that seeks treatment is connected to treatment.”

Meier said he is confident that many other sheriff’s offices and law enforcement agencies will join the Angel Initiative.

“The Behavioral Health Alliance in Montana and all of their members have been really great at helping us set up the network for the program so that people do have a place to go if they come into the participating sheriff's offices who are participating, and we couldn't be more grateful for the support of the sheriff's that have already agreed to participate. The governor has been a leader on this and has been really helpful and trying to drive interest in the program.”

DPHHS estimates that approximately 90,000 Montanans have a substance use disorder, but realistically only a fraction of these people seek treatment in any given year.

Get more details about the Angel Initiative here.

The Missoula County Sheriff's Office is not currently participating in the Angel Initiative.  Missoula County and Missoula PD, in 2016, adopted the Jail Diversion Master Plan.  The Master Plan, supported by our partners, stakeholders, and justice system can be found on the County website and has similar attributes of the Angel Initiative.


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