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Heroin on the rise in Gallatin County

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Nov 05 2013 06:00:40 PM MST
Updated On: Nov 05 2013 06:27:35 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

A Flint, Michigan man pleaded not guilty to drug charges in Gallatin District County Court Tuesday morning. Martin Depew is charged with possession of heroin with intent to distribute and property subject to criminal forfeiture.

Records indicate when Depew was searched, police found a box of plastic baggies, a scale, 32 grams of heroin and over $450 cash.

Police say the Depew case is the third significant distribution case they've seen in the last six months.

What's more is leaders with the Missouri River Drug Task Force say there appears to be at least a loose connection between the three cases, all sourced out of the upper midwest.

Melissa Kelly is an addiction counselor with Gallatin County's prerelease center. She says heroin is a dangerous drug because it's so addictive and the withdrawal symptoms are so severe.

"When you first use heroin, there's an intense high and then the effects are longer lasting and so you can stay higher for a longer period of time than you would with another opiate," explains Kelly.

Now she says the danger is escalating due to the increased availability in the Gallatin Valley.

"Right now, it's oftentimes cheaper to get heroin on the streets than it is to get another opiate or narcotic," says Kelly.

We spoke with a recovering heroin user at the Gallatin Prerelease Center. He tells us it's easier to get heroin these days than many commonly-abused prescription medications.

"It's really getting harder and harder to use narcotic medications. There are a lot more federal guidelines to obtain them," Kelly says.

Missouri River Drug Task Force Lt. Jake Wagner tells us pharmaceutical  medications like Oxycodone are close in composition to heroin. He says the federal government added ingredients to Oxycodone to keep folks from melting it down and injecting it. It's why Wagner says more folks are turning to heroin for the same high.

Wagner says more heroin in the valley may also have to do with more drugs moving through the area bound for the Bakken oil fields.

We looked at three years of statistics for all of western Montana and found three heroin-related cases in 2010. In 2011, there were six, all in the Flathead. In 2012, we found 32 cases, 19 of which were in the Flathead.