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Governor announces commissioners to advise on spending $300 million on behavioral health

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The Montana State Capitol in Helena on Wednesday, April 26, 2023. PHOTO BY MIKE CLARK

By Daily Montanan Staff DAILY MONTANAN

Gov. Greg Gianforte announced this week his appointments to serve on the Behavioral Health System for Future Generations Commission, which will work to advise on how the state should spend $300 million to reform current services.

The commission will work to advise on how the state should improve services at the state hospital in Warm Springs as well as expand community-based services, according to a press release Monday.

The governor’s appointees include:

  • Charlie Brereton, director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services,
  • Patrick Maddison, CEO of Flathead Industries, and
  • Janet Lindow, executive director and co-founder of the Rural Behavioral Health Institute.

The rest of the commission is composed of legislators, including Rep. Bob Keenan, R-Bigfork, the sponsor for House Bill 872, which appropriated the funds.

Keenan previously told the Daily Montanan the commission’s first step would be to assess the behavioral health landscape in the state and identify current gaps and fund pilot projects for some, cautioning the need to keep the scope manageable. Sen. John Esp, R-Big Timber, who carried the bill in the Senate, is also on the commission.

Gianforte said in a press release Monday the state will use the funds to expand intensive and community-based services and improve the quality of services at the state hospital in Warm Springs and other state-run health care facilities. The release said the $300 million for behavioral health was a priority listed in the governor’s proposed budget prior to the last legislative session.

Other legislators on the commission are Rep. Michele Binkley, R-Hamilton, Rep. Mike Yakawich, R-Billings, Rep. Dave Fern, D-Whitefish, and Sen. Ellie Boldman, D-Missoula.

The commission is tasked with developing recommendations to:

  • stabilize behavioral health and developmental disabilities service providers;
  • increase and strengthen the behavioral health and developmental disabilities workforce to provide critical care to those in need;
  • increase availability of integrated physical and behavioral health care; and
  • support the establishment of behavioral health settings and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The first commission meeting is Thursday at 9 a.m.

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