While Montana’s Mental Health Crisis Is A Bipartisan Creation, You Can Thank A Democratic Governor For What Happened In 2017

by Travis Mateer

For years I’ve been saying Montana is a state that is acutely incapable of handling its citizens mental health needs, but that hasn’t stopped our local leaders and naive do-gooders from pretending we can help more and more homeless people while simultaneously inviting refugees from around the world.

Nationally, people like to talk about the 80’s and President Reagan’s move at deinstitutionalization, but that was nearly a half-century ago. Now, all these years later in the state of Montana, the meager help that vulnerable populations once relied on, like case management and counseling services, have STILL not recovered from what Montana politicians did in 2017.

I’m not recalling what happened in 2017 just for the hell of it. The Missoulian has a big feature piece about mental health, titled In Montana, lack of mental health resources linked to growing gun violence, especially in hospitals, and it’s the article that reminds readers about the devastating impact of those budget cuts under Governor Bullock in 2017.

Making an appointment with a mental health provider is becoming increasingly difficult in Montana. Therapists are booked out for months and waiting lists sometimes stretch past the six-month mark.

Community resources in rural places in particular have evaporated at an alarming rate, according to Mary Windecker, executive director of the Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana.

The 2017 state budget cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services are largely to blame for the mental health crisis that followed, Windecker said.

Before the $49 million budget cut, Montanans had access to case workers in their community who helped them stay on top of medications and engage in therapy to manage symptoms of mental illness or substance-use disorder (SUD). These resources allowed people to live relatively normal lives, Windecker said.

After the budget reductions, case workers and providers were laid off en-mass, and mental health centers around the state could no longer afford to staff at the same capacity.

It’s good this Missoulian article came out BEFORE the result of the election because this 2017 reminder can be quickly eclipsed by the gnashing of teeth that is going to ensue over the failure of the crisis levy, if current voting trends hold.

And what about those “trends”? For an early report on the human error known as Bradley Seaman, here’s KGVO:

“As we were running our initial preliminary release of results, one of the very first steps that we do is we make sure that the number of ballots we have recorded by the system matches the number of ballots coming out on the report from our compiling system,” began Seaman. “We noticed that those numbers didn’t align. We confirmed that indeed, our test results from last week’s test have remained in the system, so we are clearing out all of those test results. We have updated results from our system, and then we’re going to recompile those and have those available at the 10:00 p.m. result report.”

To help exemplify what it means to be a human error, Seaman continues:

Because election reporting is a complicated issue, Seaman said every effort is made to ensure accurate results.

“What we’re always working on is a system of checks and balances in elections,” he said. “And as we go through this step, what we noticed was that when we are pulling reports before we put them out for public consumption, we make sure that they’re accurate and get a match. As soon as we noticed that discrepancy in the number of ballots, it directly aligns with the number of tests ballots that were run previously. So we’re going to clear all results, run new reports from our system, and then load all of those reports in so that we have an accurate and clear number from this election.”

Is everything clear? I hope so. I also hope a guy with the last name “Seaman” stops using the word “load” (emphasis mine):

Seaman said the initial hiccup in the computer system will be dealt with by the midnight report at the latest.

“Each time that we run one of those it takes about 45 minutes for the system to load and compile them together so we’re working on that right now,” he said. “As soon as we noticed that error we pulled them out and we got them going. We’re going to try and make sure that we have as much together by our 10:00 p.m. results and but come midnight it will be like this never even happened.”

If, after all this stress, Bradley Seaman finds he needs some counseling, I hope the failure of the mill levy, if it holds, can provide another safe and effective scapegoat for our officials, who are never ever to blame for anything.

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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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