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Montana Senate backs investment in mental health services

Montana Senate
Posted at 2:11 PM, Apr 03, 2023

HELENA — On Monday, the Montana Senate showed strong support for a proposed constitutional amendment that would see significant investment in Montana mental health services.

Senate Bill 563 — sponsored by Sen. Ken Bogner, R-Miles City — would create the Montana Mental Health Trust Fund and generate interest to fund mental health programs in the state. It would also require a two-thirds majority from the legislature to use the funds allocated to the trust fund for anything not related to mental health.

“We have a behavioral health crisis here in Montana, and this is a trend that isn’t going to go away unless we commit to addressing it,” said Bogner at the March 29 Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee hearing.

As a constitutional amendment, SB 563 needs 100 votes — a two-thirds majority — from both the House and the Senate to then be presented to the voters on the ballot. On Monday, SB 563 passed second reading 41-9 with strong bipartisan support.

If adopted by voters, the Montana Mental Health Trust Fund would create permanent and stable funding that would create a framework for ongoing projects and priorities. SB 563 says the trust should be set up at $50 million, but that funding will need to be set up and approved by the legislature.

SB 563 now heads to a final vote in the Senate, and if support holds, will go to the House for debate.