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“It’s Your Choice” Lives On - Through Regional Healthcare and Emergency Responders

May 27, 2009
Billings, Montana, Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 – Almost one year after his death, Yellowstone County Assistant Coroner, Keith Montgomery’s dream, is being kept alive. Today at Billings West High School at 2:00pm, community healthcare workers, emergency responders, volunteers and students will once again play out, It’s Your Choice, a program which graphically illustrates the tragedies brought about by teen drinking and driving. It’s Your Choice is an anti-drinking and driving campaign started by Keith Montgomery in Yellowstone County in 1990. Keith began working for the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office in 1972, and he became the Yellowstone County Assistant Coroner in 1988. Throughout all of his law enforcement experiences, Keith saw the effects of drinking and driving—but none was more influential than his work for the Coroner’s Division. Keith saw firsthand the death and destruction created when alcohol and driving mix. Based on an obvious need to curtail drinking and driving, especially in younger drivers, Montgomery developed It’s Your Choice. The program brings together local law enforcement, Emergency Medical Services, fire department, hospital and funeral home staff along with schools and many other volunteers who make the emotional and educational production come together. The presentations depict a DUI crash involving high school students who are played by members of the graduating senior class. A narrator recounts the step by step processes of the crash, the emergency response and the students’ injuries as emergency crews rush in to pick up the pieces. Some victims survive the crash with severe injuries, but one is declared dead at the scene. Spectators watch as victims are loaded into ambulances and often even St. Vincent Healthcare’s HELP Flight helicopter. But, once the lights and sirens fade into the distance, they are left in silence to watch the coroner and funeral home staff gather up the most precious and tragic wreckage from the crash—one of their fellow students. When Keith Montgomery died on June 17, 2008, the fate of the It’s Your Choice program was uncertain. However, his daughter Jennifer Montgomery contacted one of Keith’s friends and former co-worker, Jason Mahoney, St. Vincent Healthcare Trauma Education & Injury Prevention Coordinator. Their commitment to educating our region’s teenagers about drinking driving has helped keep Keith Montgomery’s dream alive. It is with the large group of Keith Montgomery’s friends throughout the region that will keep the program thriving. It’s Your Choice is coordinated through St. Vincent Healthcare’s Trauma Education and Injury Prevention Program. For more information call St. Vincent Healthcare at 237- 4181, or Jennifer Montgomery at 406-697-0431. It’s Your Choice 2009 has also presented at Skyview High School, Red Lodge High School and Bridger High School this spring. Program Partners include (in no particular order): The Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office and Coroner Division, The Billings Police Department, The Montana Highway Patrol, The Billings Fire Department, American Medical Response, St. Vincent Healthcare, Smith’s Funeral Chapel, Cremation Funeral Gallery, Jay Kohn and KTVQ-TV, The ZONE 96.3, The Carbon County Sheriff’s Office and Coroner Division, The Red Lodge Police Department, Red Lodge Fire Rescue, Olcott Funeral Chapel, FM 99 The Mountain, The Bridger Police Department, The Bridger Volunteer Fire Department, Clarks Fork Valley Ambulance, and many more.