As we worked to create this month’s update, we are torn.
On one hand, taking a celebratory tone makes sense, seeing as how we are in a brand new year and are enjoying the clean slate and potential that is implied with every new opportunity. And honestly, a little bit of the good ‘ol Christmas spirit is still hanging around. On the other hand – once again – the challenges we face are significant: Covid remains a huge factor in our world, Montana’s communities are struggling, and at this exact moment it’s snowing sideways and freezing rain is in the forecast.
In this installment of the newsletter, we have a few things to share with you and hope you find this info beneficial to your organization. Kindly give it a read and if you have any questions about anything you see here, we are a phone call or an email away. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
A New year:
We’d say Happy New Year, but … the behavioral health crisis in Montana continues to worsen. As we enter our third year of COVID with the light at the end of the tunnel still looking like an oncoming train, we continue to suffer from dire workforce shortages and are forced to close programs and group homes. Currently, all boys 12 and under are being sent out of state for residential treatment because we can’t staff Montana beds. For girls, it’s age 11 and under. We’ve made a number of suggestions to the state for relief, and we’re extremely thankful that they’ve come through on some of them. As this pandemic lingers however, we still struggle to find case managers, direct care workers for group homes, and other staff. As other entities hire the limited behavioral health workforce, the ecosystem of behavioral health continues to fracture and fail. Until we start working as a healthcare system of care, we’ll continue to see the overall health of Montanans continue to decline.
As an organization whose goal it is to help our member organizations help real life people with real life issues, this platform no longer serves our needs. That social media platforms like Facebook are causing harm to the mental health of generations of people is no secret. Yes, we understand that many enjoy the connectivity Facebook provides, or the sometimes-enjoyable bits (like kittens and puppies!), but for us the risks outweigh the benefits. Simply stated: It’s not right for us anymore. We will leave our Facebook page where it is for now, but it will be dormant as we will not be maintaining it, or replying to messages sent via the platform.
If you would like to stay connected with BHAM, please subscribe to our email list. We won’t flood your inbox and the information you receive will be relevant to our mission of creating mentally healthy communities. Just scroll to the bottom of our site, and add your info in the fields provided.
Happier Mental Health!
COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY TREATMENT (CSCT) CONTINUES TO STRUGGLE:
The school-based mental health program, CSCT, continues to struggle with the changes made by the 2021 Legislature. The legislature moved administration of this invaluable program to Office of Public Instruction (OPI) from DPHHS. We’ve been working on getting a new model in place since June 2021 for this program but have been met with constant difficulties. OPI has struggled with administering a Medicaid program. Medicaid is one of the most complex funding streams and OPI has no experience with administering this type of complex program. BHAM will continue to work with stakeholders, parents, school districts, DPHHS and OPI to try and get this program in place. To date, hundreds of kids have lost access to the program as school districts have decided not to continue it because of a lack of understanding of how the new model works. More expensive and higher levels of care are trying to prepare for more kids requiring these services as CSCT participation is reduced, but the behavioral health workforce shortage is making that preparation even more difficult. Some school districts have dropped the CSCT program and moved to the hire of school counselors. Unfortunately, this further dilutes the behavioral health system and fewer staff will be available for emergencies of kids and families when schools are out during holidays, summer and weekends.
To better understand the Intergovernmental Transfer (IGT) process Better, click here.
CHILDREN INCREASINGLY PLACED OUT OF STATE:
Due to the dire workforce shortage in hiring behavioral healthcare workers, many agencies have closed homes and are unable to staff available beds for kids requiring residential care. BHAM has been working with Children and Family Services Division and DPHHS to try and come up with solutions to this difficult problem. This month we’re launching a comprehensive provider and state agency taskforce to try and develop solutions to bring kids home and reduce the need for out-of-state placements. Currently, out-of-state providers are paid more to take Montana kids and have less oversight on quality. Everyone agrees keeping Montana kids in Montana is a high priority!
Healthcare Worker Daycare Stipends:
BHAM led the charge in suggesting daycare stipends for behavioral healthcare workers due to the low reimbursement by Medicaid and the lack of affordable access for behavioral health workers. Applications are now available for healthcare workers to have Best Beginning scholarships if they earn below 250% Federal Poverty Level. This will give some of our direct care staff much-needed financial help. https://dphhs.mt.gov/ARPA/Childcare/ChildCareAssistanceforHealthCareEmployee
Medicaid HCBS Supplemental Payments:
BHAM also worked to get the 10% Federal Match increase for Medicaid earmarked for Medicaid state-approved Home and Community-Based Services with an expanded definition for both mental health and substance use disorder programs. Each agency will receive a percentage of their Medicaid reimbursement twice a year over the next two years. The first of these two-year payments has been sent out to agencies to help these hard-hit agencies recruit and retain much-needed workers.
Health Insurance Help:
Local help is available, and plans are more affordable than ever. Open Enrollment is here and now is the time to shop for health insurance coverage for 2022. Because of a new law, plans and prices are more affordable than ever and most Montanans can find a plan for $10 a month. Open Enrollment ends on January 15, 2022.
|Kaitlyn Farrar||Columbia Falls||406-897-4141||[email protected]|
|Alissa Snow||Missoula||406-438-3410||[email protected]|
|Julie Burrows||Helena||406-461-6991||[email protected]|
|ShyAnn RainingBird||Browning||406-845-2376||[email protected]|
|Armanda Garcia||Billings||406-591-9139||[email protected]|
|Tierney Strandberg||Bozeman||406-595-7426||[email protected]|
Please reach out to me if there is anything you need. When we work together, we can solve all the problems out there!
Stay safe. Stay healthy.