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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Health Department Rebuilding Relationship With Mental Health Care Providers

Mental health service.


Organizations that provide care for people with mental health problems in Montana say they’ve reached an agreement with the state health department to redesign a big portion of the system they work in. 

The last year has seen significant dismantling of services for people with mental health needs in Montana because of state budget troubles. Many of those services are paid for with Medicaid dollars from the state and federal government. The funding crisis is now producing a new relationship between care providers and the state.

Mary Windecker represents more than 30 providers as executive director of the Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana.

“I think we can rebuild it in a sustainable, really cost-effective way so that these people aren't left without a safety net,” she says.

Windecker says officials with Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) verbally committed last week to craft a new system for case management. The goal of case management services is to help people with mental health issues live independently instead of being put in an institution.

Windecker says she’d like to see changes in how Medicaid pays, but it’s unclear exactly what the new case management system will look like.

She says this partnership with the state is new and there are no details yet for the goals or outlines of their joint work.

The state health department declined an interview request, and did not confirm or deny any specific agreement to work with mental health providers on a new case manager system.

In an email, DPHHS spokesperson Jon Ebelt wrote, “Clearly, public input will be important as we work toward the redesign of the case management systems in Montana. We look forward to this collaboration in the coming weeks.” 

Next week, the health department will take public comment from Medicaid providers in Helena on Governor Steve Bullock’s plan to restore about $30 million cut during the state budget crisis earlier this year back into public health programs.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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