The 2013 Legislature approved House Joint Resolution 16, for a study of state institutions that provide services to individuals with mental illness, intellectual disabilities, and substance abuse disorders. Legislators ranked the study fifth out of 17 study resolutions in a post-session poll, and the Legislative Council assigned the study to the Children and Families Committee.
During the interim, the committee toured the Montana State Hospital, Montana Developmental Center, Montana State Prison, and Montana Chemical Dependency Center; learned about the laws governing admission to and discharge from the state facilities; received information on the mental health services available at the state facilities and in the community; received a variety of proposals from the public for ways in which the current system of state facilities could be changed to provide more effective and cost-effective treatment; and reviewed the potential costs of expanding community-based crisis and mental health treatment services.
The committee approved five proposals for the 2015 Legislature and will review changes to one other bill draft before taking final action. All of the bills involve appropriating money for new or additional mental health services in the community. The committee decided to support funding for:
grants to counties to provide new or expanded mental health crisis and jail diversion programs or activities;
additional secure detention beds in communities for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis and in need of evaluation;
short-term voluntary treatment in the community for individuals who are facing an involuntary commitment proceeding but agree to up to 14 days of treatment while the proceeding is suspended;
a privately operated forensic prerelease center for individuals who have been found guilty of a crime but mentally ill at the time the crime was committed; and
five more employees to work with intellectually disabled individuals who are in or approaching a mental health crisis, to help the individuals remain in the community and avoid commitment to the Montana Developmental Center. Members also approved a letter asking that Gov. Steve Bullock include funding for the additional FTE in his proposed budget.
The committee also amended a proposal for a state-run forensic prerelease center, deciding instead that the money should be appropriated to the Department of Public Health and Human Services to operate a mental health group home for individuals who were found to be either guilty but mentally ill or not guilty but mentally ill. Members will review the revised draft before it's introduced in the 2015 session.
Finally, the committee agreed to send a letter to the Montana congressional delegation to ask that the members support a change to allow federal Medicaid funds to be used to pay for health care services provided in correctional facilities.
Following is a list of the legislation proposed by the committee, using the official bill drafting (LC) number that has been assigned to the bill. The bill's progress through the legislative process may be followed using the LC number in the online bill-tracking system. The original LC number used for discussion purposes during the interim is in parentheses behind the subject of each bill.
In some instances, the committee considered more than one version of the bill before approving a final version. All versions of those bills are listed below. Revisions requested in August to LC 342 will be posted when available, and the committee will review LC 342 before action is final.