DOJ: News Release

Bullock Announces Prescription Drug Abuse Advisory Council

AG says we must act now to tackle quiet killer

HELENA – Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock said today that he has convened leaders from across the state to fight the abuse of prescription drugs in Montana. The group includes physicians, pharmacists, prosecutors, a nurse, a district court judge, student leaders, law enforcement and members of the Montana Legislature.

“With more Montanans dying from overdoses of prescription drugs than in traffic crashes, it’s clear that we must act now. While prescription drug abuse isn’t something we talk about at the dinner table, it’s quietly killing hundreds of Montanans every year and, through addiction it’s destroying the lives of thousands more,” Bullock said. “I’m proud to bring together a group of leaders whose insight and experience will help us tackle this issue head on.”

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health along with an Attitude Tracking Survey by the Partnership for a Drug Free America:

  • Montana ranks 3rd in the nation for teen abuse of prescription pain relievers with 9.6 percent reporting abuse in the past year.
  • Nationally, over 4 million people used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes for the first time in 2008.
  • Nearly 60 percent of abusers get prescriptions free from a friend or relative, while over 14 percent buy or steal them from a friend or relative.
  • Only 24 percent of parents have talked with their kids about the dangers of prescription drugs.

Bullock’s advisory council will meet regularly in the coming months to develop a comprehensive plan to combat prescription drug abuse. Advisory council members are:

Representative Tom Berry (Roundup) is a Montana native who currently ranches and owns an insurance agency. Berry has served as a Republican member of the Montana House of Representatives since January 2009. On Dec 30, 2000, Rep. Berry lost his 17-year-old son to a drug-related homicide.

Starla Blank (Helena) is a Pharmacy Implementation Manager for VHA, Inc. Prior to joining VHA in July 2009, Blank was the Pharmacy Clinical Coordinator at St. Peter’s Hospital in Helena. Blank is the current Chair of the Montana Pharmacy Association (MPA). She has been a leader in the effort to implement a prescription monitoring program in Montana.

Sheriff Jim Cashell (Bozeman) has been sheriff of Gallatin County since 2001 and has served on the board of the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (MSPOA) since 1986, including serving as association President in 1997 and in 2005.

Joseph Doyle (Hardin) is a senior this year at Hardin High School. A member of the Hardin High School Student Council for the past three years, this year Joe is serving as the State President for the Montana Association of Student Councils.

Dr. Bill Gallea (Helena) earned his medical degree at the University of Minnesota and has worked as an emergency physician at St. Peter’s Hospital in Helena since 1993. He currently serves as the President of the Montana Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Wyatt Glade (Miles City) is a fifth generation Montanan, growing up primarily in Prairie County. Glade was a collegiate and professional rodeo cowboy prior to becoming a lawyer. Glade has been practicing law for six years and is the Custer County Attorney.

Mark Long (Helena) has been with the Montana Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) for 22 years, working as a narcotics investigator, regional supervisor and bureau chief. Long has been the bureau chief for the DCI Narcotics Bureau since 1996 and currently manages state-level narcotic investigation efforts in Montana.

The Honorable Thomas McKittrick (Great Falls) serves as the 8th Judicial District Court Judge, beginning his service in 1983. In 2005, Judge McKittrick founded the 8th Judicial District Adult Drug Treatment Court Program.

Dr. Michael Metzger (Billings) is a Laurel native who graduated from the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1986. Dr. Metzger completed a three-year Internal Medicine Residency in Phoenix, Arizona, and has practiced as a Board Certified Internist in Billings since 1989. As a physician in recovery, Metzger also brings a valuable personal perspective to the advisory council.

Dr. Andrew Michel (Helena) is a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and currently works as an emergency physician and EMS Director for St. Peter’s Hospital. He is also past President of the Montana Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians and serves on the Montana State Trauma Committee.

Trudy Mizner, RN (Missoula) is the Missoula County Fetal Infant Child Mortality Review (FICMR) Coordinator, as well as a State FICMR team member. FICMR is dedicated to the goal of reducing the number of preventable deaths of infants and children in our state. Mizner is the nursing supervisor for the Missoula City-County Health Department.

Chief Mark Muir (Missoula) has served the Missoula community as a police officer since 1991 and became Chief of Police in June, 2008. Chief Muir is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and an executive board member of both the National Academy Associates and the Montana Association of Chiefs of Police.

Russ Papke (Kalispell) has worked in law enforcement for over 20 years. He was assigned to the Northwest Drug Task Force as the Drug Diversion Investigator in May of 2007. Papke became commander of the task force in August, 2008.

Karl Rosston (Helena) is the Suicide Prevention Coordinator for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. Rosston came to DPHHS from Shodair Children’s Hospital where he was the Director of Social Services and a therapist in the acute crisis unit. Previously, Rosston worked at the University of Colorado, where he was on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry. He is a licensed clinical social worker who maintains a small private practice in Helena.

Ryan Rusche (Wolf Point) is the county attorney for Roosevelt County. Rusche previously served as counsel to the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation. Rusche also serves as chair of the Montana Human Rights Commission, is a member of the Board of Trustees of the State Bar of Montana, and was recently appointed to serve on the Governor’s Advisory Council Working Group on Local Government Issues to the Montana Department of Revenue.

Senator Trudi Schmidt (Great Falls) has served as a Democrat in the Montana Legislature since 1997. Senator Schmidt has worked on the Health and Human Services standing Committee for six sessions and the Health and Human Services Interim Committee five times.

Chief Rich St. John (Billings) is a 29-year veteran of the Billings Police Department and was appointed as Chief in 2005. St. John oversees the Eastern Montana Drug Task Force and sits on the executive board of Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Traffic Area, a four-state initiative.

Fred Van Valkenburg (Missoula) has been a prosecutor for 24 years and the Missoula County Attorney for the last 11 years. Van Valkenburg was a member of the Montana Senate for 20 years, during which time he served as both Majority Leader and President of the Senate.

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