HELENA – A forum in Helena Friday brought together those involved with mental health issues in Lewis and Clark County and local legislators to discuss issues ahead of the legislative session.
“My take home from this wonderfully attended meeting was that there are really successful programs on the local and state level, however, there’s a disconnect,” said Representative Mary Ann Dunwell (D-Helena).
“We’re seeing duplication, we’re seeing empty beds and people sleeping on the streets. We need to make a connection so the whole is stronger than the sum of these worthwhile parts. I think legislatively we can look at some of those fixes.”
The gathering was hosted by the Lewis and Clark County Mental Health Local Advisory Council.
Representatives from various organizations spoke about challenges related to mental health in Montana and providing care for those in need.
Top of mind for many of those in attendance is the continuation of Medicaid expansion.
“We are mental health service providers, we have all expanded our services since Medicaid expansion went into effect in 2016,” says Pureview Health Center Executive Director Jill-Marie Steeley. She’s also the advisory council chair.
“We’ve been able to see many more people than ever were before. And if Medicaid expansion were to go away or not to be continued, we would really have to cut back on the services we provide.”
Montana’s 2019 legislative session begins on Monday, January 7.
-Melissa Jensen reporting for MTN News