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Missing Indigenous Person's Task Force meets in Billings

Missing persons task force meets in Billings
Posted at 8:42 AM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 10:57:47-05

BILLINGS — Community members came together Thursday in Billings to learn more about Montana's efforts to end to the missing persons crisis.

The Montana Department of Justice website lists close to 150 missing persons across the state. The task force started its two-day meeting at the Double Tree Hotel by Hilton on Thursday.

Montana lawmakers passed a bill last year to create the Missing Indigenous Person's Task Force following decades of concern. Attorney General Tim Fox has appointed representatives from every tribe in Montana.

Among the items discussed on Thursday’s were what search and rescue resources available and how to best use them.

"It needs to be a multi-faceted approach in that each government needs to recognize what it can bring to the table and what it can share," said Montana Deputy Attorney General Melissa Schlichting.

"And how we can work together mutually to address this issue beneficially for everyone involved. And so that no matter where someone goes missing, we have resources that we call on either from the federal government, the state government or the tribal government to respond to every missing persons case,” she continued.

Coordination of the agencies and response times were concerns shared at the task force meeting as well as during a community meeting. There are nearly 150 missing in Montana including 40 Native Americans – 19 females and 21 males.

The task force is trying to find missing persons and determine what leads to their disappearances.

"We heard a lot of discussion about meth and drugs in communities and how that's contributing to missing persons cases," Schlichting said.

"We've also heard from around other communities, human trafficking, sex trafficking. All of those things contribute to missing persons. And so we're really looking for better ways to address all of those issues."

The task force will wrap up its two-day meeting on Friday.