Montana leaders pledge support for military mental health care

Montana Veteran's and legislators honor Green Star families
Green Star Families ceremony at Montana Capitol
Posted at 6:34 PM, Nov 28, 2023

HELENA — You may have heard of Gold Star families, but how much do you know about Green Star families? They are the ones who must carry the heavy burden of losing a service member to death by suicide.

On Tuesday at the Montana Capitol, multiple veteran organizations and elected leaders such as Montana Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras joined forces to pay tribute to those who have fallen and advocate for future change.

“You can only imagine the trauma that they go through on a daily basis, and they don’t always get the help that they need,” Juras said. “We need to improve our mental health care throughout the state. Governor Gianforte, this administration are absolutely committed to improving the delivery of more services and mental health care.”

During the ceremony, Juras acknowledged that Montana has a high rate of veteran suicides – which present day is now ranked fifth, but she pledged state administration will do better.

Montana passed legislation earlier this year that uses $300 million over the coming years, to make an investment in a “behavioral health system for future generations.” Part of that investment is to form a nine-person commission – who by July 2024 will provide a report to the Governor’s Office with their recommendations on addressing suicide and mental health.

Yet, service members like Rico Baker of the United States Navy say they can't wait until next year to see change.

“Approximately 17 veterans a day while seeking the care they need tragically lose their lives to invisible wounds," Baker said. "The weight of this statistic, the faces behind these numbers demand our attention and action.”

If you or anyone you know is in crisis, you can call 988 24/7 to be connected to someone who can help.