picture of the Montana state capitol in Helena, MT.

2021 Legislature Wrap Up

The behavioral health providers, in fact, all human services providers, went into this session just hoping we would not again be decimated as we were by the budget cuts of 2017-2018. While we were successful from the We Already Gave perspective in that providers didn’t get substantially cut, we admit to being disappointed that no one had the appetite to transform a failing system in Montana. That said, here are some of the important pieces of legislation that did come out of the session: 

HB 2 – The 2021 Legislative Budget Bill included a 1% rate increase for AMDD and DSD providers for the first year of the biennium and another 1% rate increase for the second year of the biennium. As well as retention and recruitment payments for direct care workers who care for people with disabilities (children and adults) and a Provider rate increase for Montanans who have developmental disabilities and live in the community (0208 waiver).  Direct care worker retention and recruitment payment captures a 10% EFMAP rate provided in ARPA (Enhanced Federal Medicaid Match).  This service is not an ongoing expenditure.  Many thanks to Mary Caferro and Tom Jacobson for successfully carrying this increase.  A 2% and 2% rate increase was voted down and a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) that BHAM suggested was never included although medical providers due get an annual Medicaid COLA increase so the fact that behavioral health providers don’t receive one is a parity legal issue. DPHHS also received $20M to use at the department’s discretion to backfill cuts made earlier in the session. 

HB 632 – Implement receipt of and appropriate federal stimulus and COVID recovery funds
Funds up to $2.75 million were allocated to DPHHS for a provider rate study. This will be conducted by a third party and an RFP will go out for it in 4-6 weeks. In addition, $10,500,000 was allocated for the SAMHSA/Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Mental Health Block Grant with “the intent of the legislature that the executive consider use of the SAMHSA funds above for the purposes of the HEART fund and for suicide prevention, including the use of the Utah model for suicide prevention that includes social media outreach, and for potential use in the department of corrections.” 

HB 701 – Generally Revise Marijuana Laws
This bill that set up the program for recreational marijuana after Montana voters approved the legislation of marijuana for recreational use in a referendum at the 2020 election. The 20% tax will go into the state’s general fund and will largely be used for veteran’s programs and non-wildlife outdoors recreation programs. Up to $6M can be used for the Governor’s HEART Fund for the prevention, treatment, and recovery of substance use disorders. This funding, however, will be allocated retroactively, like the alcohol tax, so funding will not be available until the end of 2023 fiscal year.  

There were of course a number of other bills that will affect behavioral health providers in one way or another. For a review of those bills, we recommend you look at the really great Disability Rights Montana most recent newsletter. As always, our colleagues at DRM do a great job summing up the legislative action!

(photo credit: “Montana State Capitol” by Tracy Elizabeth is licensed under CC BY 2.0)