Governor Greg Gianforte has announced a strategic investment of up to $17.5 million to enhance access to community-based behavioral health and developmental disabilities care for Montanans. This marks the initial allocation of the $300 million funding commitment made by the governor this spring to overhaul and enhance Montana’s behavioral health and developmental disabilities services systems.
Addressing a historic backlog in forensic fitness evaluations at the Montana State Hospital and expanding bed capacity at community-based residential facilities, the investment aligns with the recommendations of the Behavioral Health System for Future Generations (BHSFG) Commission.
The first initiative, allocating up to $7.5 million, focuses on funding court-ordered forensic fitness evaluations at the county level. This investment aims to increase the number of qualified professionals in communities, thereby mitigating the growing backlog at the state hospital, which primarily relies on one psychiatrist for such evaluations.
The second initiative, with a budget of up to $10 million, involves one-time grants for community providers delivering behavioral health care or developmental disability services in Montana. These grants can be utilized for purchasing or constructing new facilities, upgrading existing ones, and recruiting/training staff to expand bed capacity.
Governor Gianforte expressed the intent behind the investment, stating, “We want Montanans to have access to the care they need in their communities. With this investment, we’ll expand community-based behavioral health care and developmental disability services to better serve Montanans.”
The $300 million investment and the formation of the bipartisan BHSFG Commission were outlined in the Budget for Montana Families, signed into law by the governor in June through House Bill 872. Sponsored by Rep. Bob Keenan and supported in the Senate by Sen. John Esp, the bill empowers the commission to recommend strategic investments to stabilize service providers, strengthen the workforce, increase integrated care availability, and establish settings for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Chaired by Rep. Keenan and Charlie Brereton, Director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services, the BHSFG Commission is scheduled for its next meeting in mid-January.