We have grouped this year’s recipients according to the categories of their efforts.
Veterans Mental Health – Senator Jon Tester has been an amazing partner for NAMI Montana for years. In 2019, Senator Tester and his staff took their efforts to the next level by partnering with NAMI Montana and others to develop the bipartisan Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. The bill has a lot of momentum moving into 2020 and could be the most influential veterans mental health initiative in a decade. We are especially grateful that it is named in memory of our dear friend Commander John Scott Hannon, a retired Navy SEAL Commander who volunteered with NAMI Montana. Senator Tester is receiving a NAMI Montana Hero Award for this amazing work.
Medicaid Expansion – Representative Ed Buttrey and Representative Mary Caferro are being honored for their efforts to extend Medicaid Expansion in Montana. This was an incredibly difficult and important bill with the medical care of thousands of Montanans at stake. The bill would not have passed without Representative Buttrey and Representative Caferro’s leadership on both sides of the aisle. We are also giving an Exemplary Service Award to Montana Hospital Association’s Bob Olsen. Bob delivered critical testimony that helped the bill get through some of the most difficult sections of the legislative process. Bob’s efforts were also essential to Medicaid Expansion’s passage.
Peer Support Services – The quest to develop peer support services as an element of Montana’s mental illness treatment system has been going on for over a decade. However, it would not be until Montana Medicaid covered peer support services. Senator Jen Gross carried the bill that made this critical step possible. It was difficult effort that required navigation between a number of stakeholders to come to workable solution. Senator Gross resolutely stood up against these challenges and ensured the bill became law.
Crisis Intervention Training – Representative Joel Krautter and Senator Edie McClafferty are receiving Hero Awards for their efforts to create Mobile Crisis Intervention Units. These critical crisis services can be the difference between recovery and tragedy. The legislation allows both rural and urban communities the flexibility to develop services that fit their community’s unique resources. The bill allowed the community’s the flexibility to innovate in their work to provide this essential service.
Suicide Prevention – Representative Jessica Karjala and Representative Mary Ann Dunwell are receiving Hero Awards for their suicide prevention efforts. Representative Karjala carried this session’s bipartisan suicide prevention legislation. Representative Mary Ann Dunwell served with Representative Karjala on the House Health and Human Services Committee. Representative Dunwell has been a staunch and passionate supporter for suicide prevention efforts for years. Their combined efforts have been critical to raise the bar for Montana’s suicide prevention efforts.
Community Health Aide Program – Representative Jonathan Windy Boy is receiving a Hero Award based upon his work to develop the Community Health Aide program with partners from Fort Belknap and other tribal communities. Community Health Aides can service critical roles in providing basic medical and behavioral health care services. Community Health Aides can also conduct basic preventive dental care, health screenings, in-home care, and other services. While the need for the program is clear, there were a number of legislative hurdles in navigating professional boards, supervision concerns and other processes. Representative Windy Boy’s successful efforts in passing the bill were really impressive.
Youth Aware of Mental Health – Elizabeth Bannister, previously with Montana State University’s Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery, is receiving an Exemplary Service Award for her selfless efforts to ensure continuity in the Youth Aware of Mental Health program during the program’s leadership transition in 2018. Elizabeth telecommuted for three months to ensure that the program was able to continue to be offered to Montana schools, through the change in leadership. This international mental health awareness and suicide prevention program is being offered is 30 Montana schools in 2019-2020 and will serve over 3,000 students. This would not have been possible without Elizabeth’s efforts in 2018 to ensure that the program’s continuity.
NAMI Montana is grateful for the service of this year’s award winners and for everyone who works so hard to improve Montana’s mental illness treatment system. We are all in this together.
Have a great New Year!
Matt Kuntz, J.D.