MISSOULA, Mont. – Governor Greg Gianforte visited the Missoula County Detention Facility (MCDF) yesterday to highlight the state’s behavioral health investment in local detention facilities through the Healing and Ending Addiction Through Recovery and Treatment (HEART) Fund.

“After decades of applying Band-Aids to our broken system and kicking the can down the road, we’re making a commitment and generational investment to get Montanans healthy,” Gov. Gianforte said. “Thanks to the investment and the work of our partners, we are delivering on our promises to fill gaps in our behavioral health system, reduce recidivism, and save lives.”

Gov. Gianforte holding a press conference at MCDF with, from left, Missoula County Sheriff Jeremiah Petersen, DPHHS Director Charlie Brereton, Department of Corrections Director Brian Gootkin, and MCDF Health Coordinator Alyse Last Star.

Introduced by the governor during his first week in office as a central component of his budget, the HEART Fund invests $25 million per year to provide for a full continuum of behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment programs for communities.

Through the fund, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) awarded a Behavioral Health Services in Local Detention Facilities grant to seven Montana counties, including Missoula.

Each county can implement services that best fit their needs, such as behavioral health therapy, certified behavioral health peer support, care coordination, prescription drug management and monitoring, and medication for opioid use disorder.

Before receiving the HEART grant, the Missoula County Detention Facility was able to provide care to approximately 78 individuals. With the funding, staff last year assisted over 3,000 Montanans in need.

“Since mental health services in the jail can’t be billed to Medicaid or other private insurance programs, the county relies on grant funding to provide these essential services,” Missoula County Sheriff Jeremiah Petersen said. “With funding provided by the HEART grant, Missoula County has been able to support two mental health therapists and one care coordinator to help individuals struggling with mental health issues while incarcerated and to help connect them to services upon release.”

MCDF Mental Health Coordinator Alyse Last Star added, “We provide a wide variety of evidenced-based therapies to individuals, and thanks to this HEART grant, we’ve been able to attend trainings, stay up-to-date on those evidenced-based therapies and those interventions that we provide.”

Joining the governor and partners for the press conference were DPHHS Director Charlie Brereton and Department of Corrections Director Brian Gootkin.

“While each program varies, there is one common characteristic: across all seven contracted jails, we have observed high utilization of these voluntary behavioral health services,” Dir. Brereton said. “When this program first launched in 2022, we estimated it would serve approximately 1,000 participants during the first two years. However, in just one and a half years, it has helped over 3,100 individuals.”

“The later you get these people help the more damaged they become, and a majority of the people that are in these facilities need these services. To be able to get it at a local level makes me happy as a former Sheriff,” Dir. Gootkin shared.

To continue support for Montana’s behavioral health system, the governor last year proposed and secured a historic $300 million investment to support needed repairs at the Montana State Hospital and expand intensive and community-based behavioral health care and developmental disabilities services across Montana.

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