Is Western Montana Mental Health Selling Off Properties A Result Of Steve Bullock’s Brutal Medicaid Cuts?

by Travis Mateer

In 2017 Montana experienced its worst fire season since 1910. The budget cuts that resulted, overseen by a Democratic Governor, significantly impacted Medicaid recipients and the organizations that serve them, like Western Montana Mental Health. Attempts the following year to restore some of the funding helped, but much of the damage was already done.

Most of the cut restorations in the governor’s proposal will go to the Department of Public Health and Human Services. That’s just over $30 million.

However, that does not restore the entire $49 million the governor and Legislature cut from the agency last year amid a projected budget shortfall.

Some of the key areas targeted by the Bullock administration under this Thursday’s announcement include an across the board rate restoration for Medicaid providers and re-funding assistance programs for people who require behavioral health and developmental disabilities services.

Now, four years later, the ripple effects are still being felt, but for some interested parties, the economic degradation of Western Montana Mental Health is a great opportunity.

For Missoula County it was an opportunity to expand their election infrastructure:

The building eyed by the county was formerly occupied by the Western Montana Mental Health Center at 140 N. Russell St. It includes roughly 7,700 square feet of office space divided across three floors and will require around $500,000 in renovations.

The ground floor would accommodate non-election events while the basement would serve to tabulate ballots. The upper level would be used to process ballots.

“Currently we operate in several buildings and move ballots back and forth between buildings,” Zeier said. “It will all now all be within one area with no outside exposure whatsoever.”

For investors in the Fort Missoula property WMMHC sold, it’s an opportunity to do the old “mixed use” song and dance:

A planning and architectural firm is in the early process of proposing a mixed-use development within the Historical Fort Missoula District, including the preservation and use of the old post hospital.

While the project remains in design, it would cover roughly 5 acres of private land within the district, including the post hospital, the old nurse’s quarters and a shed. It also includes a parcel of undeveloped land adjacent to the hospital.

“Maintaining this as a place for the public is crucial,” David Hoffman of Tres Birds planning told members of the Historic Preservation Commission this week. “The hospital is the primary structure. It’s one of most historic buildings on the site. We want to restore it as close as we can to its traditional design intent.”

And for residents of the Bridge Apartments on West Broadway, it’s an opportunity to be used as emotionally potent poker chips in financial negotiations that could see a public financing DOUBLE TAP used to save this housing from gentrification:

The potential sale of an apartment building constructed years ago for affordable housing has city and county officials looking for ways to buy the property, which is listed for $2.19 million.

But some elected officials are concerned about using public money to purchase a project that was initially built with public funds. Essentially, the property’s owner, Western Montana Mental Health Center, could benefit twice, all on the public dime.

“There’s something hard to swallow about a large facility purchased twice with public money, which looks like something we’re about to do,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick.

Yes, there IS something hard to swallow about all this, like Democrats blaming every problem in Missoula on state Republicans while conveniently forgetting the previous Governor’s legacy of balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and disabled.

For now, the demonization of Western Montana Mental Health will help keep the focus on a mental health service provider (that just lost a Missoula County contract) and NOT the virtue-signaling politicians buying up election properties while lamenting the sale of disability-friendly housing.

But will this focus remain, or will Missoulians recall our recent history and ask tough questions of our illuminated braintrust and their feigned victimhood status at the hands of mean Republicans?

Only time will tell, so stay tuned…

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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4 Responses to Is Western Montana Mental Health Selling Off Properties A Result Of Steve Bullock’s Brutal Medicaid Cuts?

  1. JC says:

    Lots more info about WMMH:

    48 job listings at Indeed, looks like WMMH is horribly understaffed:

    Here’s the latest available 990 for “Garden City Community Housing Development Organization.”

    Some history of WMMH and MRA:

    Good story in HN from 2018 about Bullock’s cuts and effects on mental health care:

    WMMH pulling its services out of Lewis and Clark County last year:

  2. J. Kevin Hunt says:

    Indeed, the self-serving, face-saving statements from the County Commissioners are disingenuous, as well. This is particularly so for Commissioner Juanita Vero, who sits on the WMMHC Board. If a May 20 email and internal newsletter message to WMMHC employees from its CEO Levi Anderson accurately relates history, Vero, Strohmaier and Slotnic were AWOL for at least two years as WMMHC sought to transfer The Bridge Apts. to the County, and not at market rate. It was natural for many of us to have a visceral reaction of outrage when reporter David Erickson broke the story of the properties’ listing, last week. The vague comments from Mayor Engen that followed NBC Montana’s story in which Ward 3 City Council candidate Daniel Carlino and I were interviewed, raised red flags and CEO Anderson’s email to WMMHC employees only made those flags redder. The relevant inference to be drawn from Anderson’s implications was that WMMHC’s efforts were ignored for two years and that it took market rate listing to produce a response from these politicians due to public reaction.

    The Commissioners’ assertion that it’s not cool to use public funds to purchase something built with public funds, is specious. The local public funds consisted of $20,000 in TIF. The remainder of the funding came from 14 grants, mostly from private foundations and nonprofits, along with state and federal grant money. A similar concern was raised by Mayor Engen. The outrageous hypocrisy dripping from these statements is that at present, tens of millions of dollars of public TIF subsidies are being pushed through a strainer of multi-state development consortia that profit immensely from the hundreds of market rate housing units they build, sell and rent out on land bought with public funds and sold to those middlemen at a huge discount…meaning at a huge loss to the public. In return, the developers build a handful of “affordable” units on the small portion of that land retained by the public, which end up not being affordable for anyone earning less than $46/hr.

    That, these electeds insist, is a perfectly good — indeed “game-changing” — use of public funds.

    Moreover, the refusal of these ‘leaders’ to comment on potential use of a bit of the $41 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds granted to the city and county, for debt-free acquisition of the Bridge, is mystifying.

    Additionally, their categorical refusal to even consider acquisition of the other WMMHC special needs four-unit property on Third St., has not been explained.

    Meanwhile, the Lambros Realty online listing for The Bridge describes the building as “vacant,” and features photos of empty hallways and rooms. And, according to a WMMHC employee — who came forward as a confidential informant — WMMHC (meaning the CEO or other management) informed only a few workers directly serving the clients, of impending sale.

    According to that informant, the WMMHC tenant clients were told they would be OK, because section 8 housing vouchers would be provided to them. There is a three-year wait for Section 8 housing in Missoula, and no such housing meeting the needs of these folks with mental disabilities.

    In sum, in this farce there is plenty of contemptible dysfunction by the reptiles, to write about, and neither duopolist political party has a lead in a competition between them for the most dysfunctional.

  3. Djinn&tonic says:


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