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Western Montana Mental Health Center struggling under state budget cuts

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BUTTE - About 2,000 people rely on Western Montana Mental Health Center and its agencies for help.

But nearly $4 million in budget cuts from the state have greatly impeded that service and forced layoffs.

“Approximately this time about 40 people, we’ve also had closures of our Dillon office as well as Libby office,” said Natalie McGillen, the chief operating officer at Western Montana Mental Health.

The Butte office has been able to retain its more-than 100 staff by making drastic program changes.

But there has been almost 3% Medicaid rate cut to all its services and 50% cut to case management services.

“You know, people in Butte will have to go outside of their area to get services, whether it’s children services or adult services, see a prescriber, and so it’s important we have sustainable services in our community,” McGillen said.

Officials say when mental health services get cut, the public ends up paying for it anyway, because folks that need this service find it at the emergency room, or even at the Butte jail.

“If you look at the cost of care, that’s a very high cost of care, either housing somebody at the jail or having somebody in the emergency room. Pretty significant amount,” McGillen said.

And this agency is still waiting on Governor Steve Bullock’s final budget, which could include more cuts. A difficult thing for those in mental health services.

“It creates angst in people and stress, so I think that’s been really tough on employees,” McGillen said.

RELATED: Western MT Mental Health Center layoffs prompt protests

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