Jenna Caplette migrated from California to Montana in the early 1970s, first living on the Crow Indian reservation, then moving to Bozeman where she owned a downtown retail anchor for eighteen years. These days she owns Bozeman BodyTalk & Energetic Healthcare, hosts a monthly movie night, teaches and writes about many topics.
Changing the Montana’s culture around alcohol and other drugs, of driving impaired and underage drinking , is challenging and exhausting - like swimming upstream against a strong current. I know because I’ve been part of that effort for twelve years.
I often wonder why it’s such a compelling issue for me.
I could spin stories about that but the bottom line? It simply is.
Gallatin County has held the Swimming Upstream Awards since 1994. I've watched them become a catalyst for change. Funded by the Task Force and hosted in partnership with Alcohol and Drug Services of Gallatin County, the awards honor those who change the way alcohol misuse and alcoholism affect our community.
People often perceive DUI and other alcohol-related crime as relatively harmless. After the 2012 award ceremony, Bozeman writer Kim McKeehan said: “In a community where we chuckle at police reports that include the antics of the publicly intoxicated, those who work to change how we perceive the consequences of alcohol misuse are generally seen as killjoys. . .”. In Montana that has labeled us as “one of the top states in the nation for alcohol-related traffic fatalities—twice the national average.”
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a form of Russian Roulette -- which law enforcement aims to stop.
As keynote speaker for the awards in 2007, District Court Judge Salvagni told awardees, “What each of you accomplish to make a difference in another person's life, or to educate the community about the serious problems of addictions, or to facilitate public awareness by engaging in dialogue, or to advocate for treatment, healing and recovery, or to provide mentoring and modeling alternatives to alcohol misuse, or to protect the public and to help make our community safer and healthier. Those are extraordinary things.”
During this year’s closing comments, Belgrade’s Judge Michele Snowberger said: “The work I do humbles me. I am grateful every day for the chance to be part of this community. I see a person learn to go to a BBQ, to a wedding, to a funeral ---all without alcohol or drugs. The lives of their family, their community, and most of all themselves are enriched and strengthened because they have decided to stop going with the current and to start swimming upstream.
Snowberger ended with an invitation and a challenge -- one that I echo: “We must be more engaged with each other - not less. We must be more compassionate—not less. We must be more persistent - not less. We must do better - I am excited to see what the future holds as we swim upstream around obstacles and toward a healthy and connected community.”