The 2023 Montana Legislature concluded. It was a long, hard ride. NAMI Montana’s work in this session was laid two years in advance with interim mental health and criminal justice studies that examined in depth the challenges facing Montana’s mental health treatment system for adults and youth, in our communities, and in our inpatient facilities.
Our main focuses coming into the session were to:
- Improve funding for youth suicide prevention
- Enhance reimbursement for community crisis beds
- Improve reimbursement rates for community behavioral health providers
- Legislatively call for implementation of Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers
- Improve the conditional release process for offenders with serious mental health conditions
- Improve Montana State Hospital and other state health facilities
NAMI Montana was fortunate to be able to work with Governor Gianforte and amazing bipartisan Legislators to make serious headway on all of these issues.
There isn’t enough room to write about everything people worked on, or even everything that passed. Here is a list of bills that we were fortunate to help draft and work to pass to tackle the key issues above (plus the native youth coding bill that updated and continued a prior legislative effort). We are so grateful to the sponsors and everyone that supported them.
- HB 286 – Rep. Mary Caferro – HEART Funds for Youth Suicide Prevention
- HB 557 – Rep. Jennifer Carlson – HEART Funds for Community Crisis Beds
- SB 6 – Senator Jen Gross – Improve Conditional Release Process
- HB 310 – Rep. Jennifer Carlson – Require Report on HEART Funds
- HB 346 – Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy – Tribal Youth Coding Internship Program
There were two big bills that were tied to the Governor’s budget. House Bill 2 increased provider rate for mental health providers and HB 872 is setting up planning and funding for mental health services infrastructure.
- HB 2 – Rep. Llew Jones – State Budget bill that Increased Provider Rates
- HB 872 – Rep. Bob Keenan – Future Generation Behavioral Health System Funding
We were not able to pass an implementation bill for CCBHCs. It was rough when the two CCBHC implementation bills went down (one by Rep. Ed Stafman and one by Rep. Jane Gillette). However, Montana DPHHS did apply for and land a major CCBHC grant from SAMHSA; so we believe that effort is still heading in the right direction.
The policy break didn’t last long. NAMI Montana already met with the Behavioral Health Division about program implementation for some of these statutes and the interim legislative committees will begin meeting again over the summer.
We are so grateful to everyone who works to improve the lives of Montanan with mental health conditions and their families.
Matt Kuntz, JD