MISSOULA - The Missoula County Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to place a Crisis Intervention Levy on the November general election ballot.
“Missoula County has been innovative about finding effective ways to help people in crisis, whether it’s homelessness, living with mental health challenges, or crime victims,” Missoula businessman Shannon Flanagan said. “It’s about compassion and leadership. Our community doesn’t turn its back on problems, or on people in need.”
“We also shouldn’t turn our back on progress, but build on the gains we’ve made,” Flanagan added. “This levy is needed to continue programs that work, that help people in crisis, and that help keep our community safe.”
The Crisis Intervention Levy will help continue community programs funded largely through American Rescue Plan and grants intended to address the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This one-time funding will soon run out.
Jim Hicks, a pastor and executive director of Hope Rescue Mission, said county programs have helped those experiencing mental health crises get appropriate help and support without being taken to jail or to busy hospital emergency rooms, and they have helped those experiencing homelessness get shelter during extreme cold and heat.
“We can’t simultaneously complain about getting people off the street and then not help people get off the streets,” Hicks said.
“These problems won’t go away by ignoring them, they will only grow worse,” Hicks said. “It’s vital that we continue to invest in these solutions, rather than lose ground on the progress we’ve made to date. We all benefit when we live in communities where people are housed and cared for, not living on our streets and riverbanks.”
Joyce Dombrouski, chief executive of Providence St. Patrick Hospital, said crisis intervention programs help ensure that people with mental health challenges get appropriate care rather than being taken to the emergency room when crises arise.
“Providence St. Patrick Hospital’s emergency department experienced a 30% increase in behavioral health patient visits over the last year, which is about seven to 10 more patients each day,” she said. “Montanans shouldn’t require an ED visit in order to receive mental health care services—it's not the best treatment option for patients in crisis. We owe it to our community to increase access to mental health crisis care services.”
The proposed levy is for $5.5 million. This translates to about $54 annually for a home with an assessed value of $200,000, or $135 annually for a home with an assessed value of $500,000.