Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press
August 5, 2021
Gallatin County officials, community advocates and medical providers have arrived at another crossroads in their efforts to overhaul local mental health services: figuring out where the first-stop destination should be for people experiencing an emergency mental health or substance use crisis.
This latest debate is part of Gallatin County’s protracted struggle to create a reliable system for people with acute mental health and addiction needs. For years, local activists have pressured the local hospital and elected officials to fill out a broad spectrum of psychiatric and therapeutic services. Unlike other major Montana urban areas, the southwest Montana county that includes Bozeman currently has no inpatient psychiatric beds and no designated crisis center where law enforcement can take people who are at risk of harming themselves or others.
“It is absolutely true that our community lacks critical services to meet the behavioral health needs of our children, our families, our friends and our neighbors and ourselves,” said Ellie Martin, a behavioral health consultant representing Gallatin United Way, at a county commission meeting July 12. “The system needs repair and stabilization across the continuum.”
The issue of emergency crisis beds, a temporary setting for people who are involuntarily detained by law enforcement, was at the forefront of the July meeting.
For years, Gallatin County had a nearly $30,000 per month contract with the nonprofit provider Western Montana Mental Health Center for a variety of mental health services, including two emergency crisis beds at the Hope House facility. The county ended that contract in February, citing the organization’s struggle to provide reliable services due to staffing shortages and rising expenses.
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