Image is a header image depicting a snow-capped Emigrant Peak in Montana with the text "Newsletter" in the upper left corner and the text "03/2023" in bold type across the bottom.

March 2023 Update from BHAM

Transmittal for the 2023 Legislature is Friday, March 3. BHAM and other human services advocates have stepped up to the plate and testified en masse on several bills that would improve care for Montana’s most vulnerable.

Unfortunately, in an odd turn of events, some of the bills that have had crowds of proponents and absolutely no opponents have failed to make it out of committee. Two that were voted down after dozens spoke in favor and no one opposed were HB17, CCBHC Implementation and SB196, Require payment parity in insurance coverage of telehealth services.

While it’s disheartening to not have the will of the people acted upon, thanks to all of you who continue to advocate for improving the health and well-being of all Montanans!

Governor’s Medicaid Provider Rate Increase

Mary Caferro’s bill, HB649, passed Health and Human Service Committee on Tuesday with a vote of 17-4. See who voted for this transformational change for Montana’s most vulnerable citizens:

Joint Appropriation Subcommittee on Appropriations voted to increase the funding for the Governor’s Medicaid Provider Rate study from about one-third of the benchmarks to closer to 85-90% of some of the benchmarks. While this increase is the largest funding increase ever for Medicaid rates, it continues to fall short of the cost of providing the care as identified in the Governor’s Medicaid Provider Rate Study. 

Mary Caferro and other sponsors introduced HB649 last Friday in the Health and Human Services Committee. Scores of proponents in person and online spoke to the importance of fully funding the provider rate study to the benchmarks. In behavioral health agencies, traditional vacancy rates for employees have risen from 5-10% historically to 25-30% over the past three years due to 6%, 7%, 8.9% inflation. Many of the employees could not longer survive at the low Medicaid rates and had to make the difficult decision to leave their chosen vocation in behavioral health.

To learn more go to:

Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs)

DPHHS, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, BHAM, NAMI MT and others have been educating the legislators on the Health and Human Services Committee and the Part B Budget Committee on CCBHCs. Unfortunately, even with dozens of proponents and absolutely no opponents, the JAS Appropriations Committee voted this important legislation down last week. 

You can learn more about the national best practice CCBHC model here:

Bills To Watch

  • HB311, Establish a behavioral health voucher system. HB0311.pdf (
    This bill, carried by freshman representative, Mike Yakawich, out of Billings, was amended to provide room and board to state-approved treatment agencies.  There remains confusion around whether it would also cover shelters. With only $600,000 for the bill in the fiscal note, if shelters are funded, the impact will be minimal.
  • SB 198, Revise laws related to behavioral health peer support specialists SB0198.pdf ( 
    This bill is carried by several sponsors. It has been heavily amended since it was introduced, but it still would make Montana the only state where peers are licensed rather than certified. Other than that change from certified to licensed, it’s uncertain what the impact will be of this bill on the peer support profession. 
  • SB 196, Require payment parity in insurance coverage of telehealth services
    This bill, carried by Sen. Walt Sales, was tabled in the Senate Public Health and Safety Committee even though it had several proponents and absolutely no opponents. It’s unclear why. 
  • HB252, Provide screening for youth behavioral health. 
    This bill was voted down in the House. Fortunately, the next day, Governor Gianforte announced funding for this program through Children’s Mental Health Bureau so much-needed screenings will be available for children across Montana. Thanks Governor!

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.

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