Montana Devotes $7.5M to Behavioral Health Care

3 min read

The state is providing early interventions to improve the health of moms and their babies.

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte recently announced a $7.5 million investment to expand access to behavioral health care and substance use disorder screening and treatment for pregnant and postpartum women throughout the state. The investment was made in collaboration with Charlie Brereton, the Director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), and the Montana Healthcare Foundation (MHF).

The CEO of the Montana Healthcare Foundation, Dr. Aaron Wernham, said in the statement, “Montana continues to demonstrate a great need for substance use disorder and mental health services and support for pregnant and postpartum women.”

“DPHHS is proud to continue this partnership and eager to expand to more Montana communities as part of our strong commitment to improving access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment services,” Brereton added.

Through the Meadowlark Initiative, all 31 hospitals that deliver newborns will get expanded mental health care services for expectant and new mothers thanks to funding that is available through combination of federal and private sources.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

In order to assist expectant mothers and their families and enhance health outcomes, Meadowlark, a collaboration between DPHHS and MHF, offers a clinical team of physicians specializing in prenatal and postpartum care as well as behavioral health. Care coordinators will also assist the prenatal and postpartum care teams in establishing connections with the local and regional Child and Family Services Division (CFSD) offices, acting as advocates for patients specifically with substance use disorders (SUD). Providers at Meadowlark collaborate with families impacted by substance abuse to develop a “plan of safe care.”

By working together, CFSD personnel will be better equipped to handle each case and respond to drug-exposed births by knowing more about the patient’s background and current recovery efforts, which will lessen the need to split up families. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 5% of pregnant women in the United States use illicit drugs during pregnancy and mental health issues are a strong precipitating factor. A lack of access to healthcare and addiction treatment services means very real risks remain for mothers and their babies, making these new services critical.

According to a 2022 evaluation, a higher percentage of women seen by Meadowlark providers received routine screenings for mental health and substance use disorders as well as recommended prenatal care. In fact, the average percentage of women receiving adequate prenatal care increased from 68% to 85% across all Meadowlark sites.

“Being pregnant causes everything to change. We’re just really taking care of patients by giving them what they need as soon as possible”, said Becky Derzay, Nursing and Operations Manager of Bozeman Health Women’s specialists. She added that participants in the program visit with a provider at 10 and 30 weeks of pregnancy.

“Families throughout Montana are experiencing better outcomes thanks to Meadowlark care,” Dr. Wernham stated. However, he added, “These results are encouraging, but more work remains. Montana continues to show a great need for mental health services, support for pregnant and postpartum women, and services for substance use disorders.”


Governor Gianforte Announces $7.5 Million Investment To Improve Health Care for New and Expecting Moms

State announces funds to expand health screenings for expecting moms

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