I hope your holiday weekend went well. Please accept my apology for the length of time between Legislative updates. This is the sixth Legislative session that I’ve advocated through NAMI Montana for Montanans who live with mental illness and their families. This Session has definitely been the hardest to try to explain to people who aren’t personally working on it.
There have been some really great things and there have been some really difficult things. Everyone can find something they like in this Session and everyone can find something they don’t like. The “likes” and “dislikes” vary each week.
The budgeting situation alone is always tricky, but the addition of the funds from the federal government’s American Recovery Program Act has hit the “Complicate Further” button on an already complicated process. I have included an excerpt below from Disability Rights Montana’s newsletter that describes the current state of the budgeting process.
We have testified in support of a large number of bills developed by partners across the mental health field. Most of the bills that have had success have involved expanding and improving access to care through tweaks to licensing laws, telehealth, etc.
I will write a fuller description of those bills and the budget situation when the dust settles in this session.
Out of the bills that we worked directly with the sponsors to write, here is a list of the ones that are still alive.
- SJ14 — Senator Walt Sales — Interim Study of Mental Health System
- HB 295 — Rep. Mary Caferro -Explicitly Allow LCSWs and LCPCs to Treat Chronic Pain –
- HJ4 — Rep. Mary Caferro — Study criminal proceedings and commitment of people with mental illness
- HB644 — Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy — Establish tribal computer programming boost scholarship program
Budgeting Status Description
From Disability Right Montana Email Newsletter
Last week, the Senate Finance and Claims Committee heard and acted upon HB 2. Significant motions in the Part B section included one to add 100 waiver slots to the 0208 developmental disability waiver, a move to add an additional 1% Medicaid provider rate increase, and a “sweeper” motion to put all of the funds that we will receive from an enhanced matching rate for Medicaid expenditures from the federal government into a fund and appropriate all of that fund to the Department without identifying which division it is to spend the funds. The first of these regarding waiver slots did not pass, while the other two did pass. HB 2 will be on the Senate floor this week.
Meanwhile, the House passed HB 632, which is the primary bill to appropriate $2.7 billion which is coming to the state by virtue of the American Recovery Act. Given how many funds have come to Montana and the still unanswered questions about the way in which the funds must be used, the bill creates commissions to allocate funds once federal guidance is clear. One of these commissions will make determinations regarding the funds allocated to MT DPHHS. The bill has passed to the Senate.
Other Developments: This week, we will pass the transmittal deadline for bills with appropriations within them, so committees are taking final action on some bills and either sending them to the floor or tabling them. The deadline for transmittal is April 8, so the House and Senate will spend the majority of their days in floor sessions on April 6, 7, and 8.
Thank you again for your patience with me and the space between Legislative updates. I will work to do better as we head into the homestretch.
The Treatment Scout website helps people find effective inpatient and residential care. It can also help you explore other intensive care options for mental health, addiction, etc. Find out more at http://www.treatmentscout.com/