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Reflections on 2019

As we race to the end of 2019, it is easy to get caught up and forget all that was accomplished in this past year and how much more we have to do in the coming year.

By now, there is no one in Montana that has not recognized that the cuts to community-based prevention services in January 2018 decimated the very fragile behavioral health system that existed in the state. In the 2019 Legislative Session, constituents, providers and state employees made their voices heard about the damage that had been done to many of Montana’s most vulnerable.

The Legislature worked hard to reverse some of the damage and allocated another $1.5 million for substance use disorder treatment and another $3.5 million for recreating a case management model for children and adults. Medicaid Expansion was passed, and with it, the ability to provide services to many people with substance use and mental health challenges. Peer Support Specialists were approved for reimbursement through Medicaid so that they can bring their unique perspective to the treatment of people in recovery of both substance use and mental illness.

In 2019 Behavioral Health Alliance providers and state directors came together to create new, sustainable models for several programs:

  • A new model for the Intensive Outpatient Program for substance use treatment was created that helped providers make people more successful in this outpatient program.
  • Children’s Case Management had a taskforce of children’s providers and state directors that worked hard for 3 months to create a sustainable model for that very important program that was so drastically cut in 2018. The state will be rolling out a new rate model for that service in early 2020 so that case managers can get back to their important work in communities.
  • An Adult Continuum of Care Team continues to meet to address the reimbursement and program shortages to deal with adults with mental health and/or substance use issues. The group is working to create a tiered model that will allow for more fluid treatment as people’s needs change.

Looking ahead to the new year …

In the coming year, a Home Support Services Taskforce will be started, as well as a larger Children’s Continuum of Care Taskforce to try and give families the support they need across the very complex systems. These two important initiatives are generously funded by the Montana Healthcare Foundation as they work to move the dial for families in Montana.

In partnership with Montana Peer Support Network and AMDD, a Peer Support Summit will be held on May 5th in Helena to bring together peer support specialists, clinical supervisors and administrators to look at how to best use this great resource throughout the state. Again, Montana Healthcare Foundation generously supports this initiative.

The Behavioral Health Alliance will host a Behavioral Health Candidate Forum for candidates running for governor, attorney general, and insurance commissioner, so that providers and recipients of services can find out how the candidates plan to address the serious challenges facing Montanans in behavioral health.

The Arthur M. Blank Foundation will bring together children’s providers and state directors in October 2020 in order to create relationships that can move the children’s programs forward for Montana’s families.

We remain a state with very serious behavioral health issues – number one in the nation for suicides, number one in the nation for foster placement of children – just to name a couple, but we are also the last best place with one million creative, innovative, caring people who don’t believe in letting any of their neighbors down.