It is important to know that Great Falls has had a mental health advisory board for over 25 years. What has changed is that for many of those years they were attached to the mental health center. Beginning in about 2001 the state began to look at establishing a regional, central, service area authority which would be connected to local advisory boards. Once they were established, all funds for local (state) mental health projects had to come through the local advisory councils (LAC) to the (CSAA) Central Service Area Authority for approval. In our area we have successfully reviewed gaps in service, developed the first Peer Support Project, worked on developing a (CIT) Crisis Intervention Team, and engaged in legislative advocacy, including the development of the SAA/LAC – SB347. Since it’s beginning, the local advisory council has always been concerned with decisions that were made in Helena.

In 2001 the City County Health Dept. reported to our committee that they had developed a thorough study concerning the most critical health issues in Great Falls. To everyone’s surprise, mental health services were #1, then substance abuse, child abuse/neglect, domestic violence and the need for improved access to health care. “Physicians indicated that Great Falls had inadequate mental health services, providers, facilities and access…”

In 2002 and 2003, much of our time was spent discussing and analyzing what the SAA/LAC system would look like and what it would mean to us. A central SAA Board and by-laws were set up. A lot of energy went into advocating for the new system.

The emphasis in 2004 was on gaps in mental health services in Great Falls; many agencies were interviewed and involved. A list of our concerns was developed and reviewed. On the state level, crisis services were a priority.

There was much discussion on the state level about getting drug companies to lower their prices for preferred drugs – those most effective for illnesses.

The CSAA sought nominations for the CSAA Interim Leadership, participants from GF were: Shawn Matsko, Mike McLaughlin, Joe Moll and Joan-Nell Macfadden, later Vernon Bishop was added to the list.

AMDD became dedicated primarily to adult services, Children’s services moved to another Dept.

The Medicaid Redesign Committee on the state level was meeting trying to expand MHSP (Mental Health Services Plan), there were no federal funds available. Private physicians didn’t want to see Medicaid clients because their rates were too low.

Upon Dan Anderson’s retirement, Joyce DeCunzo became the new head of AMDD. A paper entitled, Local (mental Health) Advisory Councils was developed.

2005, all LAC’s were asked to respond to a questionnaire from the state on local Adult Crisis Response. Many agencies responded to our questions.

There was strong emphasis on legislation. Great Falls developed a Crisis Peer Support pilot project and presented it to the state for funding. A lot of research and planning went into this project and Great Falls was awarded the

funding. The project is still in existence today.

In November the new Center for Mental Health/Largent School Building was dedicated.

In 2006 we wrote letters endorsing:

  1. 72 hour presumptive eligibility
  2. Expanded funding for MHSP (Mental Health Service Plan)

In Cascade County 60% of new clients are MHSP as compared to 40% in the past. Cuts to MHSP would increase the numbers to both the hospital and Warm Springs.

Transportation for disabled discussed.

20% of patients going to the hospital ER are mentally ill.

John Parker spoke on presenting testimony to the legislature.

WRAP trainings were discussed. They have been implemented and have been highly successful.

A local Advisory Council Handbook was developed.

In 2007 the STEP Program was proposed to the legislature, it was controversial as no one knew what it was. The most serious criminal and mental conditions would go into a STEP Program in the back facilities of Warm Springs. Advocates balked because they hadn’t been included in any discussions. The bill was eventually withdrawn.

A program on Social Security benefits for the disabled was presented.

The Peer Support Program is going strong with access to clients in the hospital.

The Early Childhood Project has been using the Ages and Stages Questionnaire and using their findings for future plans. Grants are being sought to hire a part time consultant to day cares as well as training for day care providers.

SB 382, on establishing Mental Health Courts was reviewed.

15 new Wrap classes held. The Kids Management Authority (KMA) is working on developing WRAP Programs for teenagers. Nine more people graduated from Peer Support Training. An agreement was signed with Benefis Hospital for Peer Support Specialists.

Sherry Mead a national specialist on Peer Support will hold trainings in Great Falls.

$1 million will be available in July for Recovery programs.

Jane Wilson presented potential goals for the LAC

We Reviewed information on the SDMI Home and Community Based Services Waiver; discussed Evidenced Based Practices.

2008, Discussed applying for the Recovery Grant for CIT. Currently, in Great Falls, there isn’t a process for dealing with people in crisis, individuals end up going to jail. Also, discussed the possibility of having a Crisis Response Team

The SDMI Waiver has more spots available. Staff are working on setting up a Peer Support Training with cost to be paid by VoTech.

Center for Mental Health Foundation will be accepting gifts for Christmas.

This is a smattering of the issues that the CCLAC has reviewed over the past 6 years. Another project that hasn’t been mentioned is our support of Center West, a transitional living program for individuals with severe mental illnesses.

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