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Event shines light on children's behavioral health in Montana

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Posted at 5:17 PM, Nov 30, 2022

HELENA — The Children’s Legislative Forum was held in Helena this Wednesday. The event worked to update those in the field on the state of children’s behavioral health in Montana and to look toward the future.

“It’s probably one of the most important sessions for mental health and substance use disorder treatment across the state. There's a crisis in children's mental health across the nation and particularly here in Montana,” says Executive Director for the Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana, Mary Windecker.

The event brought government leaders and those who work with children together to discuss where behavioral health for children currently stands and where it’s headed.

Among the topics of discussion was the $2.7 million study approved by the legislature in 2021. The study found that the rates reimbursed by Medicaid for children’s mental health care did not cover the cost of delivering the care, forcing some individuals to leave the state to receive necessary help. Low workforce numbers were also discussed.

“We've just cut so many things over the last five or six years that we haven't been able to treat people the way they should. And coming out of the pandemic, it is a huge issue for children,” says Windecker.

The annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that reported feelings of sadness or hopelessness among Montana’s 7th through 12th graders are currently at a 30-year high.

Montana Representative, Mary Caferro, spoke on a panel during the event. She discussed with MTN her priorities heading into January’s session which included a focus on preventative action, heeding the study’s findings, and keeping folks in Montana for treatment.

“This time, this session, we have the resources available to actually make an investment in children and families that could create generational change, that could create upward mobility and stability. That's, why wouldn't we do it?” says Caferro.