BOZEMAN, Mont. — Sunday marked the start of National Suicide Awareness Week across the United States.
And communities across Montana are hard at work looking for ways to address mental illness.
Recently, Gallatin County Commissioners approved the 2020 County budget which includes funds going toward a behavioral health specialist for the Health Department, a role that’s been in place since 2017.
The position was originally funded by a federal grant that ends at the end of the month.
“Our county employee in behavioral health is critical to the networking and a lot of the collaboration that happens in our community,” said Gallatin County Commissioner, Scott MacFarlane.
“And without that position in the county, a lot of that networking would fall away, a lot of those relationships would break.”
Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley says that moving forward, the behavioral health specialist will work to engage the community to focus on preventing and treating mental illness, rather than dealing with mental health issues in crisis mode.
“So really this position allows us to work in the area of prevention to build service that allow Gallatin County residents to seek mental health care the same way they would seek their regular health care services,” said Kelley.
Gallatin County taxpayers will see an increase in taxes as a result of the 2020 budget, but the Gallatin County Health Department says that investing in mental health services might actually save money for taxpayers in the long run.
“We send somebody to Warm Springs, to the mental health hospital or we send somebody to some other part of the state. That costs the taxpayers dollars,” said Kelley.
“We did an analysis and we saw that the Sheriff's Office during a 9 month period and had over 400 hours of deputy time spent transporting people in crisis to someplace safe that was outside of the county.”
Gallatin County’s behavioral health specialist will now receive permanent funding to go towards the health department’s budget.