a lodge in the dark evening sky with the warm lights of the barn shining against the moody evening sky.

May 2023 Update from BHAM

The 2023 Legislative Session will go down in history but not for the reasons it should: Montana finally allocated funding to transform the behavioral health system for years to come! 

We also want to call out the incredible crop of journalists who worked on this session. They dug in deep to understand the issues on the complicated healthcare bills and asked excellent questions to get at the details. We are heartened to see such a drive to understand and explain things clearly by this talented group of journalists!

Provider Rate Increases for Medicaid

The 2023 Legislature finished up very close to the goal line of the provider rate study benchmarks! In the first year of the biennium, HB2 allocated about 95% of the benchmarks for providers in adult and children’s mental health, substance use treatment, developmentally disabled, and senior and long-term care. In year two of the biennium, providers are at 100% of the benchmarks! 

There is no way to thank everyone who was involved in this amazing achievement, but we want to call out the Governor’s office, DPHHS leadership, and the hard-working legislators on Joint Appropriations Part B Budget Committee, House Appropriations, as well as the Senate for recognizing the dire straits providers were in after the 2017 budget cuts and the world wide pandemic!

HB872 An Act Revising Behavioral Health Systems:

This bill, sponsored by Keenan (R), Big Fork, is a request for unprecedented funding for the behavioral health system, including the developmentally delayed programs, that would:

1. Create a Behavioral health system for future generations advisory commission, and;

2. Behavioral health system for future generations’ fund.

This bill has the potential to transform the behavioral health system in Montana! For the first time, the state is looking at creating a continuum of care for behavioral health, from prevention to acute care with much of the money going toward reviving the dying community-based services! 

This fund will appropriate $70M in the next biennium for DPHHS to work on fixing our collapsing behavioral health system and appropriate $75M for the 2024-2025 biennium for capital projects to shore up the crumbling Montana State Hospital as well as potentially create two regional crisis behavioral health facilities. Any money left over from the coming biennium would go back to the fund. Overall, $300M would be placed in this fund for spending in coming years to fund both an acute and community-based behavioral health continuum of care.

Our attention will now turn to the make up of the advisory committee created by HB872. It will have legislators from both sides of the aisle, DPHHS leadership, and three appointees by the Governor. We’re asking that providers and consumers also have a place at the table. Anytime you fund healthcare without having a clear understanding of how healthcare works, you run the risk of bad policy and reduced outcomes.

Cognitive Behavioral Health Therapy 3-day Intensive Course:

Cognitive Behavioral Health Therapy 3-day Intensive Course with Dr. Galen Cole will be in Billings May 17-19. This training is free to attendees but has a capped enrollment. It will be hosted by Yellowstone Boys & Girls Ranch and held at the Ranch Chapel. please register at this link:

Kudos to Montana’s Journalists for Legislature Coverage:

As I mentioned at the top of this newsletter, I want to again give a shout out to the members of the press that put in the hours and the work to cover Montana’s 68th Legislature. I was impressed and reassured by the great questions that were asked, the amount of active listening they demonstrated, and the accurate stories that made it out to the people of our state. Here are just a few examples from a variety of news organizations that were providing coverage.

Daily Montanan / Keila SzpallerService providers say funding Medicaid rates, mental health ‘historic,’ ‘unprecedented’

KFF Health News / Keely LarsonMontana Passes Significant Health Policy Changes in Controversial Session

Montana Free Press / Amanda EggertRecreational marijuana tax bill headed to Gov. Gianforte’s desk

Missoulian / Seaborn Larson ‘Depth of despair’: Senate gives initial OK to $300M behavioral health initiative

KFF Health News / Katheryn HoughtonAs Montana’s Mental Health Crisis Care Crumbles, Politicians Promise Aid

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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