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Lewis and Clark County making progress in finding new mental health providers

Posted at 6:37 PM, Mar 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 20:37:29-05

Leaders in Lewis and Clark County say they are making progress toward bringing in new permanent providers for a variety of mental health services – several months after the previous provider ended its operations in the county.

Kellie McBride, Lewis and Clark County’s director of criminal justice services, said Thursday that leaders have hired a full-time behavioral therapist and a case manager to work in the county detention center. They have interviewed for another therapist and expect to make a hire in the next few weeks.

McBride said the county is also negotiating a final contract with the Center for Mental Health, to provide a crisis intervention team. The team would respond to 911 calls and other emergency situations in order to help de-escalate the situations.

Both the services in the jail and the crisis intervention team had previously been offered by Western Montana Mental Health Center, headquartered in Missoula. However, the organization’s leaders announced last year that they would end their operations in Lewis and Clark County, after the county made changes to their contracts.

McBride said county leaders have been looking for ways to improve the mental health services in the county.

“Lewis and Clark County chose not to just keep the services going, but to take a look at what would really work best in our community, what our community needed,” she said.

The county had previously contracted for the behavioral health positions in the jail, but leaders decided to instead hire them directly so they could have more specific input on the behavioral health team. McBride said, once the second therapist is in place, they will have behavioral health services in the jail seven days a week, ten hours a day.

McBride said the crisis team had originally only communicated with first responders by telephone. Now, as a mobile crisis unit, the members will go to emergency scenes in person.

On Thursday, the Lewis and Clark County Commission accepted a state grant of about $708,000. It will provide funding for the services in the jail and the crisis team, as well as for a data manager to help identify trends and needs.

The county will provide almost $1.2 million in matching funds in addition to the grant.

“Lewis and Clark County is completely committed, and we’ve shown it not only in our statements and our actions, but by where we’ve put our resources,” said Commissioner Andy Hunthausen.

Western had also operated the Our Place drop-in center and the Journey Home crisis stabilization unit, prior to leaving the county.

Good Samaritan Ministries has been running Our Place on a temporary contract since Dec. 30. Lewis and Clark County health officer Drenda Niemann said they have also been selected as the new permanent provider. A final contract will go before the county commission next week.

Niemann said officials have not yet been able to reopen the Journey Home. She said they are currently looking at all options.