Attorney General visits Lewistown students: School assembly focuses on dangers of prescription drug use

By: 
Charlie Denison
Reporter

 
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox addresses a crowd of Fergus High School students and visitors from other schools at the Fergus Center for the Performing Arts Wednesday. Fox was one of several speakers to address the gravity of Montana’s prescription drug problem.
Photo by Charlie Denison

 

Attorney General Tim Fox made a special appearance in Lewistown Wednesday, speaking at the Fergus Center for the Performing Arts as the keynote speaker for an assembly educating the community on the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

The event, sponsored by Together Our Recovery Center Heals and Young People in Recovery, also featured the Bitter Pill Art Exhibit, a collection of paintings by Montana artists about prescription drug abuse and how it affects the lives of people around the state.

Along with the gallery, TORCH and YPR brought in a number of speakers to shed light on the same theme, localizing the tragedies that come with addiction. Among them were Fergus County Sheriff Troy Eades, Drug Enforcement Administration Representative Stacy Zinc, Central Montana Medical Center nurse Kelly Dengel and Congressman Ryan Zinke’s Great Falls District Director Christy Hagler and others.

Fox kicked off the talks after an introduction by TORCH board trustee and prevention activist Derek Gibbs. Much of his speech focused on safety and accountability.

“Take the pledge to end prescription drug use,” he said. “I have taken the pledge and I challenge all of you here today to take it, too. Share your knowledge with your family and friends. Get involved in your community.”

A Montana native and graduate of Hardin High School, Fox said he was grateful for the opportunity to speak at Fergus and he is grateful for groups like TORCH and YPR for raising awareness on this subject.

“Prescription drug abuse, ladies and gentlemen, is an issue that needs to be taken as seriously as any other drug abuse problem,” he said. “It’s great to see these groups doing the work to make others aware of the disease of addiction.”

Fox added that, through support and awareness, there is hope.

“People can and do recover,” he said.

Tragically, that is not always the case. Dengel told the hundreds of students in attendance her heartbreaking story:  on June 29, her sister, Britany Lynn McCoy, died of a prescription drug overdose. She was 30 years old.

The loss is tremendously hard to bear, Dengel said, and is a sad, real example of how prescription drugs do not discriminate. This can happen to anyone, and that’s why she told the Fergus High School students and others on International Awareness Day to avoid prescription drugs.

“Taking mind-altering drugs can lead to addiction,” she said. “Don’t even try it once.”

Taking a chance with prescription drugs can have devastating consequences and devastating impacts on the community, and Lewistown is no different than anywhere else, Eades pointed out in his speech. There is a problem here, just as there is a problem in Billings, Denver and Los Angeles. It’s everywhere.

“The cost to our community is phenomenal,” Eades said. “Whether it is costing us jobs, whether it is family services having to go into a home and remove children in place them in foster homes, law enforcement having to arrest people, family members dying, family members trying to help addicted family members, the cost is huge.”

The choice is yours, Eades told the students.

“You guys are at a point in your life where you can be part of the problem or part of the solution,” he said. “It’s all in the choices you make. The drug problems we have in Fergus County affects us all. None of us are immune from it. And because it affects all of us, it is going to take all of us to help make it better.”

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