MISSOULA — Missoula County announced a $600,000 grant on Monday that will increase mental health services in the local criminal justice system.
The money will continue funding existing resources such as a jail therapist for the Missoula jail, but will also pay for new staff and programming.
One of the new resources will be a crisis intervention training coordinator who will lead training efforts for law enforcement officers and first responders.
Additionally, a mental health coordinator at Partnership Health Center will facilitate communication among mental health providers, law enforcement and anyone else seeking information on local services. Lastly, a full-time referral and outreach coordinator at Western Montana Mental Health Center will work with law enforcement to provide outreach and early diversion work with vulnerable populations.
Missoula County grants administrator Erin Kautz said she hopes these services will provide outreach at the earliest stages of crisis and will have beneficial financial impacts as well.
“Hopefully we’ll be sending less people to the state hospital and be able to stabilize more people locally. That helps keep them housed, it helps them keep jobs, keeps them close to family, so there are just a lot of benefits from a human perspective,” Kautz said.
“But then there’s also financial savings for the county by providing sources locally. When we do send people to the state hospital or incarcerate them, we pay for that. If we can find ways to provide these services without incarcerating, without hospitalizing people then it’s really a better level of care for them as well as providing cost savings,” she added.
The grant will pay for 18 months of staff and programming. The county is currently working on a contract with the state and once that’s complete in a few weeks, they'll begin hiring for the new positions. The new resources should be up and running by May.