People suffering from substance abuse issues or mental health problems, or both.

In ABC FOX Montana's continued series focusing on crime in Missoula's Westside neighborhood, a Missoula Police officer said most of the people, who are repeatedly committing these bad behaviors are doing so because of these disorders.

And the city's chief prosecutor said that jail isn't always the best solution.

Instead of arresting our way out of it, multiple officials say the community needs to direct its attention to the root of the problem.

In our effort to do that for you, Ben talked with Missoula County Sheriff TJ McDermott who has been one of the champions of the Jail Diversion Program.

Sheriff McDermott says putting addicted people in jail is not cheap or safe.

The 'Jail Diversion Program' is slowly being put into place by the city and county.

In the last decade, the number of detainees has skyrocketed, putting extra pressure on jail staff and law enforcement.

In 2016, a county jail roster study found that nearly 45 percent of all detainees were non-violent offenders and many of their crimes were related to drug and alcohol.

On top of that, many become repeat offenders and never get the help they actually need, like mental health services and addiction treatment.

"I think correctional systems are filled disproportionately with folks who are vulnerable," Sheriff McDermott said. "People with substance abuse, alcohol or drug issues, and also people with mental health issues. And we know that those symptoms are best treated outside the facility."

Sheriff McDermott says that the people, who are not committing violent crimes, but still causing issues in Missoula due to addiction or mental health issues would better be served outside of the jail and in the hands of trained medical professionals.

But even their hands are tied financially.

During the 2017 Montana legislative session, funding was cut from the Health and Human Services budget, which led to a significant loss in case managers.

These people work one-on-one with those individuals, who have addiction or mental health issues and are critical to their eventual success.

Now, they're ending up and staying on the streets.

Regardless, the director of Western Montana Mental Health Center in Missoula says that they're still able to do important work.

Angela sat down with Kari Auclair. She says their PATH program, 'Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness,' heads to the darkest areas of Missoula to get repeat offenders the help they need.

But due to legal restrictions, a threshold needs to be met to offer services: 1. the person has to be in grave disability, and 2. the person has to be in imminent risk of harming them self or others.

She says that if that's not the case, the question comes into play: when do they intervene?

She adds that a person needs to want to get help.

"Again, it's going to be based on the individual," Auclair said. There's some folks who are homeless, who have no intention of being anything but homeless. That's their lifestyle. That's their culture. And that's their choice."

If a person is a substance abuser, Western Montana Mental Health Center has two, just two, beds for detoxification.

Along with providing individualized therapy and offering and overseeing the use of prescription drugs if need be, they give people a place to live while they transition into a home.

The Missoula Parks and Recreation Department is also working hard to prevent crime by making our parks as safe as possible.

Director Donna Gaukler spoke to Ben about CPTED, 'Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.'

It's a fascinating strategy that involves an extensive design process.

Almost every single aspect of a city park, including bathrooms, benches, play structures, plant height and lighting, is created to deter bad behavior.

"So when we build a little cabin for a kid to play in, we remove the bottom 18 inches, so I can see as a parent before my child goes in if there is anyone else in there," Gaukler added. "We think they are almost imperceptible, but there is this sense, or this intuitive sense, of increased safety."

Currently, Parks and Rec is focusing on Lions Park near the California Street Footbridge, West Side Park near Lowell Elementary School and the expansion of Broadway Island Park.

The goal? To create spaces where families can recreate.

The main objective of all of these organizations and individuals is crime prevention by getting to the root of the problem.

On Friday night, Angela and Ben will introduce you to one incredible woman, who is putting her life back together.

After losing her home, her children and her way of life to being homeless and addicted to drugs. she's now sharing her story in hopes of helping others.

Plus, Missoula Mayor John Engen reveals solutions for the city.

They'll tell you more about his plan and the future of the Garden City

Throughout the week, ABC FOX Montana has appreciated your comments, questions and stories in dealing with this issue.

Angela and Ben have found that this is not an isolated issue. It is affecting most Missoulians in some way.

If you haven't contributed yet, they want to hear from you by joining the conversation.

And here is how you can watch previous stories in this series:




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