FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 29, 2015
Dave Parker, Communications Director, 444.9844
Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, 444.0936
New Facility to Relieve Overcrowding at Montana State Hospital
Funding secured during 2015 Legislature to help treat Montanans with the most significant mental health needs
Helena, Mont - Governor Steve Bullock today announced a new treatment facility for Montanans committed to Montana State Hospital (MSH) due to alleged or adjudicated criminal actions. The new facility in Galen, Montana will reduce pressures on MSH – the hospital is licensed for 216 beds, but the current occupancy is 253 - and provide a greater level of treatment and security to conduct client evaluation and treatment, improve client and staff safety and reduce the risk of client flight.
The facility will become a Secured Forensic Mental Health Facility and will provide 24/7 secured psychiatric treatment and evaluation to adults who are court committed to the custody of the director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services. Individuals who will be served include:
- Individuals committed as Guilty But Mentally Ill (GBMI);
- Individuals committed as Not Guilty but Mentally Ill (NGMI);
- Individuals committed for Court Ordered Evaluations (COE);
- Individuals committed for the purpose of gaining fitness for trial, considered Unfit To Proceed (UTP); and
- Individuals in the custody of the Department of Corrections who are transferred for placement pursuant to Montana law.
“As we make historic investments in community mental health services, we must also remember we have a moral and legal obligation to serve Montanans with the most significant mental health needs,” said Governor Bullock. “This facility will provide much needed relief to our acute care mental health facilities’ patients and employees, but cannot be our only effort to reduce the overcrowding at Montana State Hospital. We must do all we can to ensure Montanans are only committed there as a last resort.”
While the 2015 Legislature approved funding to hire additional staff and operational resources to relieve over population issues at MSH, the failure of the statewide infrastructure bill (SB416 by Sen. John Brenden, R-Scobey), means the facility to provide the needed relief along with other critical infrastructure investments did not come to fruition. The new facility will be leased from Community Counseling and Corrections Services, Inc. headquartered in Butte.
The new facility will allow for more timely court-ordered evaluations, reducing the waiting period for such evaluations. The new facility will also allow for single occupant rooms. Further, the new Galen facility will enable separation or segregation of different types of forensic clients and their needs which is currently not an option at MSH, such as:
- Separation of men and women;
- Separation of people serving sentences or trying to regain legal competence from people who are under court ordered evaluations;
- Separation of people in the early stages or recovery from those who are further along in recovery; and
- Separation of people who act in a predatory manner from people who are vulnerable.
The new facility is expected to be operational February 1, 2016.
As part of his Executive Budget for the current biennium, Bullock proposed and secured from the 2015 legislature historic investments in mental health services to ensure the treatment and safety of individuals. Last week, Bullock announced $3 million in additional funding for home and community-based services. This is in addition to $1.8 million for jail diversion and crisis intervention strategies for people facing a mental health crisis, $1 million award for a youth mental health crisis diversion pilot project, and $815,000 in funding allocated for 24/7 emergency care coverage for individuals in a mental health crisis. Additional awards and programs will be announced in the coming weeks.
The following statements were provided to the Governor’s Office in support of the proposal:
Vicky Byrd, Executive Director of the Montana Nurses Association
“The Montana Nurses Association is encouraged, and supportive, of this important step toward addressing patient and nurse safety. With the utilization of this facility it will relieve some of the pressure on nursing that has resulted from a sustained increase in the patient population. I want to personally thank Governor Bullock for this innovative solution. We look forward to working together in the transition period.”
Cathy Orrino, Psychiatric Social Worker, Montana State Hospital and George Sich, Employment Counselor, Montana State Hospital
"The staff at Montana State Hospital was heartbroken when the infrastructure bill failed last session. Governor Bullock has found a great alternative to ensure the safety of employees and the most effective treatment of the most at need patients in our state."
Matt Kuntz, Executive Director, National Association on Mental Illness - Montana
“We're very excited about the development of the new forensic facility. The combination of overcrowding of forensic patients at Montana State Hospital and continued care of offenders with serious mental illness at Montana State Prison poise major humanitarian and legal liability issues for the state.
This facility is going to provide a safe place for offenders with mental illness to receive effective treatment while developing relationship and vocational skills to allow them to successfully return to society.”