The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Brenda Kneeland
Managing Mental Health 

Cutting Community Mental Health


The discussions around health care and cuts to Medicaid have been reduced to faceless statistics. For community mental health, and the people who rely upon our services, it’s a double whammy. The state of Montana also has announced that cuts are very probable due to reduced revenue estimates. This is on the heels of the Legislature reducing sentences with the promise that mental health and addictions treatment would solve our problems.

Who are these nameless, faceless statistics? They are portrayed by some as slackers who should get a job and pay for their own insurance. Many are under-employed or struggle along as some of the people we value the most: our dog groomer, our maintenance workers, the guy who helps us figure out how to deal with the pests in our yard, the person who makes sure our motel room is cleaned up to our standards. They are veterans who suffer deep hurts. Our children, our in-laws, our friends, our neighbors…none are immune to mental illness and addictions.

More specifically, those who struggle every single day with mental illness or addictions, sometimes cannot crawl out of bed due to severe major depression. Their access to health care has given them hope and has enabled them to tend not only to their behavioral health care needs but also to dental care, sinus infections, sore throats those things some of us take for granted. Cuts to Medicaid and other services pull the rug out from under them one more time.

Our state has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in suicide. We have a high rate of mentally ill residents in our jails and prisons and emergency rooms. As a state and a nation, we know better. Why, in this land of plenty and promise, have our hearts seemingly become hardened to our neighbors who suffer the most?

When these individuals come to their community mental health center looking for services, there may not be any available due to the deep cuts we are expecting. Unfortunately as decisions are made, it will be the agencies that provide these critical services that will be cast as the villains that let the community down. Fingers will be pointing to providers for reducing services or dropping the ball rather than the policy makers.

Providing care to some of our most vulnerable citizens should not be a partisan political issue. Ask Senators Tester and Daines to work on a fix that will benefit Montanans, not leave them in the dust.

Brenda Kneeland is Eastern Montana Community Mental Health Center's Chief Executive Officer.


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