A hush spreads over this land. Like that moment before a storm hits, the people seems to not notice that a deadly epidemic has finally come to their town. The echoes of an unseen violence have come knocking at our doors. It is time to examine this very real crisis. Meth has become the source of all problems.
The Flathead Reservation is located in a very beautiful area in Western Montana. This reservation extends from Missoula to the middle of Flathead Lake. The reservation contains 1,242,969 acres, and about half of this land is owned by the tribe and tribal members. Tribal members from the Salish and Kootenai tribes make up only 16.6 percent of the reservationís population; the rest of the population is non-Indian.
The Flathead County Drug Task Force works with the Lake County Drug Task Force in handling the meth crisis on the Flathead Reservation. According to Detective Mike Meehan, supervisor of the Northwest Drug Task Force, there were 2 meth labs busted in 1998. So far this year they have busted 13 meth labs. There has also been a noticeable increase in violent crimes throughout the Flathead Valley, directly associated with this increase in the availability of meth. Detective Annette Holliday is also a vital member in the Drug Task Force. She says that about 90% of the drug problems in the Flathead Valley are due to meth. A couple years ago meth was not the drug of main concern. In just three years meth has become the leading drug of choice on the reservation.
Detective Holliday stated, "The minute that you introduce methampetamines into an area you immediately see an increase in violent crimes." She indicated that in all of the years that she has been in law enforcement she has never dealt with situations that come anywhere near to the volatility that occurs when dealing with meth users.
According to Holliday, "It changes a personís personality to such a an extent that they are more violent offenders. They start making their own reality in their head because of the use and lack of sleep. Consequences go away."
"We could work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it feels like we arenít even making a dent," said Holliday. "I donít think that the public is nearly aware of how prevalent its use is around here. How much it is affecting everything, crimes that are being committed, burglaries in peopleís houses."
Holliday would like law enforcement to "use the full force of the law, and the penalties that are in place by the state" to stop the deadly epidemic of meth. Holliday stated that "all of the sales-of-meth cases in the last 2 years have gotten deferred sentences." She stated that the deferred sentences "make the meth dealer think that it is worth the risk and the money. The donít see the consequences of getting caught."
Hollidayís final message to the public was "Be aware that the drug alters the user's mind."