GREAT FALLS — The Center For Mental Health will be expanding thanks to a four-million-dollar grant; it is based in Great Falls and operates in 13 counties in North Central and Western Montana.
The federal government awarded the two-year grant to support the center’s transition into one of Montana’s first Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. Leaders say the government decided to expand the numbers of CCBHC’s in states in response to an expected high demand for behavioral and mental health services.
“What it does is essentially expand the services we already have in place by identifying the gaps and building more access, more capacity of staff,” said Sydney Blair, the Center for Mental Health CEO." More importantly it adds primary health care within the walls of behavioral health.”
Blair says core services at the Center for Mental Health include: psychiatric outpatient services, screenings and assessments, peer programs, assertive community treatment programs, crisis services, case management and care coordination.
Blair says research shows the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the need for mental health services. “We used to say that one probably in five, and in some cases probably one in four people will have a diagnosable mental health condition in their lifetime,” said Blair. “But with Covid and just that lower resiliency they really feel that we’re going to see one in three people needing mental health services or substance abuse services in the very near future.”
Primary health clinics will be opening in April along with a pharmacy at the Center which is one of three Montana agencies to land the grant, something Blair calls a gamechanger: “It allows us to serve Medicare people that were underserved before. It allows us to expand on existing services. And it pays for services that weren’t paid for before through Medicaid.”
Blair says the grant will also help give states a financial break, because their match will be less than usual.
CCBHC awards were also given to Rimrock Foundation in Billings and the Western Montana Mental Health Center in Missoula.
While the exact number of new staff is still being worked on, the Center is already working on hiring additional nurses, care coordinators, and therapists.
“Our challenge is to have a work force that is ready to go in less than three months for the expansion and to basically open up the doors to whoever needs care in our region,” said Blair.