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Eastern Montana Community Mental Health Center implementing care model lawmakers want to expand statewide

Gary Waters
Ikon Images/Getty Images

Montana lawmakers are considering a publicly funded mental health model that advocates say could increase access to care.

Eastern Montana Community Mental Health Center in Miles City was awarded a four-year, $4 million grant to pursue becoming a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic.

CEO Brenda Kneeland says the center’s roughly 125 employees at regionally staffed offices serve 17 eastern Montana counties across 48,000 square miles.

“Out here, we’re tasked with the geography, just the distance and access to services, what is available in some of these smaller communities,” she said.

In order to become a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic, organizations must comply with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services criteria like 24/7 access to crisis management services. That includes in-person and telehealth services, which Kneeland says is a big part of current operations.

Groups that meet requirements are eligible to receive federal funds, and patients are able to pay flexibly based on actual expected cost, regardless of insurance status.

The Montana Legislature is currently considering a bill that would implement the program model statewide.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.