Billings prepares for Vice President Mike Pence’s visit

Posted at 3:01 PM, Jun 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-11 17:01:45-04

BILLINGS – Billings Police Chief St. John held a press conference Tuesday morning to address expected delays and closures for Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Billings.

Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence will arrive around 12 p.m. at Billings Logan International Airport on Wednesday. Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte will join Pence on Air Force Two.

St. John said the public can expect heavy road delays and closures while the Billings Police Department, other law enforcement agencies, and the Secret Service close intersections to allow the motorcade to make its way to RiverStone Health Clinic.

Once at RiverStone, several blocks will be closed to vehicle traffic.

St. John said to expect downtown to be busy. He added the block surrounding the Double Tree, which includes 1st Avenue North, North 26th and 27th streets, and Montana Avenue, will be closed to all vehicle traffic for 24 hours.

The streets will be open to foot traffic. Any cars or people going into the Doubletree will be checked and scanned by police and Secret Service agents.

The head of the Rimrock Foundation said she hopes the vice president’s visit to Billings will shine a spotlight on the problem of drug abuse in the area.

Lenette Kawsavich, Rimrock’s CEO, told MTN News that meth use is on the rise, but the nonprofit is realizing on a federal level that there are more drugs out there causing devastation beyond communities.

“Some of the ways we are seeing the feds react to recognizing there are other drugs. (Former Attorney General Jeff) Sessions over a year ago, he came to talk about the opioid epidemic, but in a personal conversation, we got to talk about some of the things that really cause us concern here in Montana. Having Vice President Pence here really shines a light on the true depth of this problem,” Kawsavich said.

The vice president will meet privately with stakeholders, local law enforcement, and other federal officials as they focus on a three-pronged approach to combating Montana’s meth crisis, according to a release from his office.

That approach? Treatment, prevention and enforcement.

The Rimrock Foundation, an adult inpatient treatment program in Billings, is part of the Substance Abuse Coalition and will join the vice president Wednesday.

After he delivers remarks, Pence will go to Willow Way, a group home for patients struggling with addiction.

Later, he will attend a fundraising event for Daines, who is up for re-election in 2020.

-Reported by Zoe Zandora/MTN News