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Mental health crisis-service providers to get $4 million in state funding

Four million dollars in state funding could soon help mental health providers resurrect services for those in crisis, but providers worry about keeping that care available long-term.

Mental health crisis facilities can look different depending on the level of services they offer.

People in crisis can voluntarily go to what are called receiving centers to just chat with mental health professionals. CEO of Many Rivers Whole Health Sydney Blair spoke on the matter.

“Envision a recliner. ‘Hey, have a seat, what do you think you need today?’” Blair said.

Then there are stabilization services. Those are isolated hospital beds, which offer more intensive care for someone who may be a threat to themselves or others.

The idea is to de-escalate and stabilize patients.

“Maybe there’s a medication change or maybe they’re getting started on something,” Blair said.

After patients are stabilized, they’re connected to long-term treatment.

But these facilities have been closing for several reasons: Medicaid reimbursement isn’t enough, counties have pulled financial support or staff is hard to find.

Gov. Greg Gianforte last week approved grant funding to help providers reopen those services. A state commission that is allocating $300 million to rebuild the state’s mental health system requested the funding.

Blair is thinking about applying for grants to restart crisis services in Cascade and Lewis and Clark counties. Other providers are also thinking about it, but some are not because they don’t see a way to sustain crisis care.

The services are desperately needed. But Montana is a rural state, meaning that beds can sometimes sit empty.

“If you don’t have that volume, then you’re going to continue to cost-shift to cover the loss,” Blair said.

Many Rivers is part of a federal pilot program that would reimburse the total cost of those services. But it needs to find a way to reopen and keep these services going while that program gets off the ground.

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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