Gianforte visits Nexus, joins conversation on addiction

Fergus County Sheriff Troy Eades, left, and U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) visit at Nexus treatment center Thursday morning.

Photo by Charlie Denison

“Don’t give up hope.”

That’s the message U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) gives children he meets around the state. That’s what he told the 7th-12th grade students at Harlowton earlier this week.

And, on Thursday morning, Gianforte shared this same message with the Fergus County Sheriff’s Department, Fergus County Commissioner Ross Butcher, Fergus County Attorney Kent Sipe and Nexus Administrator Rick Barman in a conference room at the Nexus treatment complex.

But it’s easier said than done, as methamphetamine, prescription drugs, synthetic drugs, opiates and more plague Montana’s rural communities.

It’s disheartening, Sheriff Troy Eades said, and tremendously frustrating.

“We’ve got other things we can do than chase drug addicts around,” Eades said.

Eades and Undersheriff Rick Vaughn see a lot of the same perpetrators again and again. It can be tiring, and trying, but they have a job to do, and they can’t do it alone.

That’s what the conversation was about Thursday. Gianforte was not there to speak; he was there to listen. He wanted to hear thoughts on addiction and encouraged those in attendance to keep the conversation going.

Others at the table agreed.

“As a society, as a community, we need to break the cycle of addiction,” Eades said.

With programs such as Together Our Recovery Center Heals and Young People in Recovery, Barman said Lewistown is stepping in the right direction.

“Groups are developing with the clear target in mind of helping people get back on their feet,” he said.

Barman said Nexus provides residents with tools to do the same. For 270 days, residents work on understanding their thought process through intensive selfwork, instilling accountability and personal moral development.

“We want our residents to think about their actions,” Barman said.

Nexus is no picnic, but the mental discipline it instills in its residents seems to be working. As of this year, Nexus has a 66 percent success rate.

Nevertheless, Barman said the fact Nexus was established illustrates how much of an issue addiction is in the state.

“Ideally, a place like us wouldn’t have to exist,” Barman said. “Someone who comes to NEXUS has a felony on their record. It’d be nice if people could find the help they need before they get this far.”

Eades, Vaughn, Gianforte and the others at the table Thursday agreed.

“Drugs, guns and violence education should all be part of the school’s curriculum,” Vaughn said.

It is critical for children understand the dangers of addiction at an earlier age, Vaughn said.

Eades said he can tell if a child is going to head down the wrong path as early as fifth grade, especially if he’s familiar with their family structure. This is why he says it’s imperative to educate early.

“The younger we can educate, the higher the success rate,” Eades said.

The need for this continues to rise, as Barman said Nexus residents are getting younger. The amount of meth that’s available also remains a concern. Gianforte said he believes increased border security could improve the situation, as he’s heard much of the meth comes from Mexico.

As the conversation continued, there were more questions than answers, but one message was clear.

“We have to come together as a community to solve this problem,” Gianforte said.

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