A coalition called Missoula Substance Abuse Connect received a $248,000 federal grant on Friday to help the community fight violent, drug-related crime and to reduce substance abuse.

U.S. Attorney for Montana, Kurt Alme provided details of the grant to KGVO News on Friday.

“Project Safe Neighborhoods Missoula has been focusing hard on reducing meth supply because of its connection to the increase in violent crime there and across the state and now, Missoula community has received almost a $250,000 grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy that's come through the Rocky Mountain HIDTA which is our drug enforcement organization to help our community develop a prevention and treatment plan to reduce demand for methamphetamine.”

Alme praised Missoula’s United Way for taking the lead in the project.

“So we have a wonderful group of community members who come together to work on a joint plan,” he said. “United Way and Susan Hay Patrick have stepped up to be the point on that, and we’re very grateful. We already have partners from the law enforcement community, the treatment community, the prevention community, the medical community all coming together, to work together to come up with a plan that's specific to Missoula to help address this problem.”

Alme acknowledged the fact that meth and other drugs come through the I-90 pipeline that runs from Seattle through Missoula.

“We've struggled for decades to reduce supply and reduce demand,” he said. “It's obviously a very challenging problem. The majority of our illegal drugs come from Washington into Montana. So they come right through the I-90 corridor, and so anything that we can do in Missoula to help stop the supply and reduce the demand should benefit the entire state. The ultimate measure of success is to reduce meth related violent crime, but we would also like to see a reduction in drug use generally and co-occurring mental health disorders.”

Alme singled out local leaders for Missoula Substance Abuse Connect.

“The United Way has taken the lead in Missoula County, and they already have an excellent staff beginning to come on board, such as the very talented project director Shannon Spruill, and also project chair Jana Lundquist, who will be working and leading the way on this coalition as we develop what the needs are and what the steps should be taken to shore up what we're lacking in prevention and treatment.”

For more information about Missoula Substance Abuse Connect, contact Susan Hay Patrick at the Missoula United Way at 360-0596.