MTPR

Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana

Montana Behavioral Health Alliance Executive Director Mary Windecker testifies at a state health department listening session in Helena August 1, 2018.
Eric Whitney / Montana Public Radio

Montana’s remaining addiction and mental health care providers had a lot riding on the 2019 Legislature. And they walked away from the session cautiously optimistic that they’ll soon be able to rebound from recent tough times. Almost two years ago the state health department was forced to cut almost $50 million to help balance the state budget.

Providence Health and Services announced Wednesday that it is expanding behavioral health services in all nine of its primary care clinics in western Montana.
(PD)

Providence Health and Services announced Wednesday that it is expanding behavioral health services in all nine of its primary care clinics in western Montana.

The move means more licensed clinical social workers will work in clinics in Missoula, Stevensville, Florence, Ronan and Polson. They’ll work with primary care physicians to improve patient outcomes in the kinds of places most Americans typically don’t go for mental or behavioral health specialty care.

Montana Behavioral Health Alliance Executive Director Mary Windecker testifies at a state health department listening session in Helena August 1, 2018.
Eric Whitney / Montana Public Radio

Montana’s health department was dealt a major blow in late 2017, when the agency was forced to cut almost $50 million to help balance the state budget.

Mary Windecker of the Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana, an advocacy group representing about 30 addiction and mental health care providers, says that was, “A huge shock to both the mental health and substance use systems in the state of Montana.”

An woman holds a sign during a picket of Western Montana Mental Health Center in Missoula, Dec. 18, 2017, following state budget cuts to mental health services.
Olga Kreimer

Montana lawmakers met today to start setting the budget for programs that help people with mental illness or drug and alcohol use disorders.

State health department officials say in recent years the administration has increased Montanans’ access to mental health care with the help of Medicaid expansion.

More than 40 people came to the DPHHS hearing on Medicaid cuts Feb. 1, 2018 in Helena.
Corin Cates-Carney / MTPR

When Montana lawmakers and the governor cut $49 million from the state health department earlier this year, it disrupted care for thousands of Montana’s most vulnerable residents. Over 100 case management jobs were cut. Now, the health department is meeting with contractors about the possibility of redesigning the system.

Montana Behavioral Health Alliance Executive Director Mary Windecker testifies at a state health department listening session in Helena August 1, 2018.
Eric Whitney / Montana Public Radio


Access to mental health services, something already hard to get for some Montanans, took a step backward this year because of state budgeting issues.

In the wake of the budget cuts, 10 offices closed and over 100 behavioral health care workers lost their jobs, according to one count by the Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana, which represents more than 30 providers.

Mental health services.
Flickr user Publik15 (CC-BY-SA)

 

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. 

More details on Governor Steve Bullock’s plan to restore parts of the state budget are expected this week.

On Tuesday, the state health department says it will issue a new rule that will restore a nearly 3 percent cut to how much it pays doctors, clinics and other health care providers who see Medicaid patients, retroactive to July 1 of this year. That’s two months ahead of when the department initially said providers could expect that rate restoration.