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Western Montana Mental Health holds county crisis contract through FY21

Missoula County on Tuesday renewed its contract with the Western Montana Mental Health Center for the remainder of the Fiscal Year to provide crisis response and stabilization, along with court testimony in cases of civil commitments.

But it may be the last time the county secures both services in a single contract.

“It seems like an unusually bundling,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “We’ve got the legal side, which is its own thing. We need someone to handle the civil commitment part. But then there’s the crisis stabilization piece where they’re paying for some space and some care.”

Anna Conley, the senior civil deputy at the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, said the $205,000 contract with Western Montana Mental Health will maintain services for the rest of FY21.

The county plans to seek bids for FY22, at which point the services will be unwrapped, with civil commitments separated from crisis response and stabilization.

“This service is going to go to bid in the beginning of the year for FY 22. We have requested that Western Montana provide that information,” Conley said. “We haven’t received it yet but we have made the ask. We’re doing what we can to better quantify the service in anticipation of facilitating the bids at the beginning of the year.”

Conley said the County Attorney’s Office relies upon the services of Western Montana Mental Health in cases of civil commitments.

If someone is involuntary committed, the process generally sees an emergency detainment followed by a hearing. At that point, Conley said, a court determines whether the person is a danger to him or herself or others, and if they’re able to meet their own basic needs.

“Our office relies upon the evaluation of mental health professionals to make that determination,” Conley said. “Western Montana has individuals available on the days of those hearings to evaluate those individuals, and if they do determine they meet the criteria, and if they’re unwilling to voluntarily get mental health treatment, Western Montana provides testimony in regard to the evaluation of that individual in a court proceeding.”

Western Montana currently operates the Crisis Response Team as well, along with the voluntary crisis stabilization facility at the Dakota Place. The services operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

For the remainder of FY21, the $205,000 contract will continue to fund those services.