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Temporary mental health funding for Montana public schools is running out

Empty school classroom

A program providing mental health services to public school students is close to running out of temporary funding. State and public school officials are still working out a new funding structure to keep providing services.

School districts last week asked state education and health officials for changes to an agreement that will set up a new system for schools to directly pay a third of costs under the Comprehensive School and Community Treatment program. The remaining two-thirds are paid for by federal Medicaid dollars.

Montana lawmakers this year provided a little over $2 million in temporary funding after it became clear districts would have to directly pay for their share of the program rather than making in-kind contributions like providing space, staff and equipment.

Meghan Peel with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services said the funding to pay for districts’ share of the program is nearly gone.

“We are close to exhausting it, but we do have enough funds to cover claims submitted in December,” she says.

Montana Office of Public Instruction spokesperson Brian O’Leary says both OPI and DPHHS are taking the changes proposed by school officials under consideration. But it’s unclear if there’s enough time to make any changes before temporary funding for the program runs out as some changes could require federal approval.

If districts don’t sign on soon, they could go without federal funding to support mental health services for students.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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