Substance use disorders & criminal justice





Substance use disorders like alcoholism and methamphetamine use are among the most wrenching challenges Montana faces. Addiction and substance abuse tear apart families, spur violent crime, and threaten the fabric of our communities. They also strain our criminal justice resources and overwhelm our judicial system. We need decisive action to solve this problem, starting at the highest levels.


As Attorney General, Raph Graybill will coordinate a multi-pronged, evidence-based response to methamphetamine and other substance use disorders that puts our communities first. Graybill recognizes addiction for what it is: a medical condition that requires treatment. He’ll fight to uphold the Affordable Care Act and a robust Medicaid program that makes mental and substance abuse treatment available to all Montanans. And he understands that the best criminal justice policy will promote keeping non-violent individuals in their communities, healthy and working. Jails and prisons alone simply will not solve the problems Montana faces, and our law enforcement officers need more tools than just incarceration at their disposal. 


Graybill’s criminal justice strategy uses the office of the Attorney General to coordinate reform across multiple agencies. Graybill will place a heavy emphasis on increasing treatment options, supporting preventative solutions at the community level, and ensuring our law enforcement have the best resources available for substance use disorder best practices. Graybill will also work hand in hand with Montana’s American Indian communities to end the disparities and injustices they face. Graybill recognizes that bold action is called for to keep our communities safe and healthy. 


As Attorney General, Graybill will:


Fight to keep our communities healthy, whole, and working by emphasizing treatment and prevention of substance use disorders, in addition to enforcement 

Drug and alcohol addictions hurt our communities in countless ways. They fragment families, interfere with employment, generate crime, and lower life expectancies. We need to understand substance use disorders as a public health issue and prioritize keeping our communities intact and moving forward. Graybill knows that substance use disorders are far more than just a question of criminal justice. They threaten every element of our way of life as Montanans.  


Over 70,000 Montanans suffer from substance use disorders, but fewer than 10% receive treatment for their condition. The first step towards protecting our communities from drugs and alcohol is ensuring that behavioral and mental health services are widely accessible and utilized. The Attorney General can lead on this issue by spearheading a broad, inclusive coalition of stakeholders from the city, county, and state levels to coordinate early-stage treatment and prevention programs. Graybill will look beyond solutions that rely on enforcement alone, recognizing that Montana needs robust treatment and prevention programs to counter substance abuse. 

Divert non-violent offenders away from incarceration and into evidence-based treatment programs

Jails are just one tool in our criminal justice toolbox. Sometimes incarceration is necessary, but imprisonment alone will never solve the problem of substance abuse. We need a forceful emphasis on evidence-based treatment and prosecutorial diversion programs, with leadership from the Attorney General. As the state’s top cop, Graybill will work with the medical community, drug courts, and county attorneys to divert non-violent offenders away from prisons when what they really need is monitored treatment. 


Graybill will focus enforcement resources to fight the high-level, sophisticated trafficking operations that truly threaten our state. Smart treatment programs, like those supported by the Montana Behavioral Health Alliance, also reduce the cost borne by Montana’s tax payers by breaking the cycles of recidivism that lead to repeat-offenses, long-term incarceration, and court backlogs. Graybill will fight to eliminate misdemeanor prison sentences for minors, and promote effective wrap-around services within the youth probation system and parole system. And he will commit to transparency in sentencing data, so that all Montanans have access to accurate information on their criminal justice system.

Promote community organizations that build resilience and prevent our children from being exposed to drugs and alcohol

Prevention starts in our communities when we lift up organizations that keep our kids away from drugs and alcohol. Research shows that substance use that begins during teenage years has a significantly higher likelihood of becoming a severe addiction in adulthood. Fortunately, organizations like the Yellowstone County United Way and the Boys and Girls Club of Billings are doing cutting-edge work in early intervention programming. As Attorney General, Graybill will work hand in hand with community organizations to prevent substance use disorders in our children. 


Graybill knows that evidence-based prevention programs rooted in our communities are fiscally responsible, too. In fact, they’ve been shown to produce $10 of savings for every $1 spent because they steer people away from prison and expensive treatment. That’s why, as Attorney General, Graybill will fight to ensure that these vital community organizations receive funding through grants, through settlement dollars, and through leadership in the legislature.

Implement best practice enforcement measures, including de-escalation techniques and behavioral health interventions

In his role overseeing the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, Graybill will ensure that our law enforcement officers receive the tools and training they need to effectively deal with substance use disorders. Behavioral health crisis response programs, such as Crisis Intervention Training and a Mental Health First Aid, must be a fundamental part of the curriculum for first responders. Building on Governor Bullock’s work during his tenure as Attorney General, Graybill will also continue to promote de-escalation techniques that allow law enforcement officers to interact effectively, and safely, with non-violent offenders. 


Defend the Affordable Care Act, our most powerful resource for promoting behavioral and mental health and treating substance use disorders 

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides robust substance use disorder services and general mental health treatment to the tens of thousands of Montanans who have enrolled in our state’s expanded Medicaid program. Mental and behavioral health are major concerns in Montana right now. Our state has a suicide rate that is twice the national average. And we have chronically low treatment rates for substance use disorders, which manifests in poor health outcomes and multiplies the fiscal burden on Montana’s corrections system, social services, and communities


Without the ACA, Montanans would lose access to the vital behavioral and mental health programs that have been repeatedly shown to reduce substance use disorders. Medicaid is the largest source of substance use disorder treatments in our state, and it plays an outsize role in combating alcoholism, methamphetamine use, opioid abuse, and the numerous social consequences of addiction. Medicaid provides outpatient treatment services and inpatient detoxification services to all adults, which Montana did not cover before the Affordable Care Act. 


That’s why Graybill will fight to defend the Affordable Care Act from destructive lawsuits that would leave Montana’s communities worse off. Graybill’s opponent, Austin Knudsen, has repeatedly sought to gut the ACA, which would be a disaster for Montana and could lead to the elimination of mental health and substance use treatment even in private insurance plans. We need those programs now more than ever.


Stand up for American Indian communities, which are disproportionately affected by substance use disorders and drug-related incarceration

Graybill understands that Montana’s American Indian communities are disproportionately affected by Montana’s criminal justice system, where they account for 20% of our prison population. American Indian women, in particular, represent 34% of all female inmates in our corrections system. Graybill will work with American Indian communities to change these troubling trends.


Graybill will make sure that American Indians have access to treatment pathways that keep them out of the criminal justice system. For American Indian women, in particular, he will support evidence-based early community intervention strategies that include trauma-informed care and treatment and targeted case management. Graybill knows that fighting substance use disorders requires resilient communities that are integrated into the recovery process.


Create a State-Tribal Justice Council to establish best practices on criminal justice questions that involve tribal stakeholders

Graybill will establish a State-Tribal Justice Council, convened by the Attorney General, that brings tribes together with state and local stakeholders to discuss shared goals and support tribal justice entities on issues such as re-entry, jurisdiction, and successful supervision of tribal members in the state justice system. We need a fair, functional, and responsive criminal justice system in Montana’s Indian Country. 


We also need targeted programs to address the specific needs of Montana’s American Indian community. Studies have shown that substance use disorder interventions, for example, are more effective when they are culturally relevant to the patient. And smoothing the reentry from prison into American Indian communities is a crucial element in breaking the addiction cycle. The State-Tribal Justice Council will develop policy that directly addresses the needs of American Indians. 


Graybill is the only candidate who can be trusted to reform our criminal justice system, fight substance use disorders, and keep our communities safe and healthy

The centerpiece of Graybill’s campaign is using the Attorney General’s office to stand up for Montana’s communities. He is the only candidate for Attorney General ready, on day one, to address the problems with our existing approach to criminal justice. Graybill will use medical research, evidence-based public policy, and best practice health interventions to reduce substance use disorders in Montana. He’ll curtail our criminal justice system’s reliance on incarceration, make effective treatment available to low-level offenders, and pursue traffickers with a coordinated multi-agency strategy. And Graybill takes seriously the need for greater coordination between Montana law enforcement and tribal justice systems to promote justice, treatment, and safety for all Montanans. 


Graybill has already demonstrated leadership on public health and criminal justice issues. He has fought to preserve the Affordable Care Act, an essential tool in promoting behavioral health in Montana. And he won a crucial lawsuit to ban flavored vaping devices that hook Montana children and make them susceptible to substance use disorders down the road. Graybill is a fighter on these issues, and as Attorney General he’ll stand up for our communities in their struggles for a fair and effective criminal justice system. 

Raph Graybill announces his substance abuse and criminal justice plan.