Citing the importance of trust, Missoula County has approved a three-year, $375,000 contract with a new mental health firm to provide professional services regarding civil commitments and the court proceedings that come with them.
Deputy County Attorney Anna Conley said civil commitments occur when individuals are unable to meet their own basic needs, or are a danger to themselves or others based upon the mental illness.
A strong working relationship with the MHP is key to the process, she said.
“We use certified mental health professionals and we rely heavily on their evaluation of individuals to make our decisions with regard to petitions and proceeding to hearings with petitions,” Conley said. “They’re also our key witness when we go to hearing, which we regularly do in court proceedings in regard to civil commitments.”
In the past, Conley said, the county has contracted with Western Montana Mental Health for its MHP services. After a request for proposals, however, the selection committee chose United Minds LLC for the service.
The contract runs three years and includes $120,000 the first year, $125,000 the second year and $130,000 the third year. The service begins in July.
“It’s an interesting contract because they have to be available every single business day of the entire year for us,” Conley said. “If we don’t have an MHP, we don’t go to hearing because we don’t have a witness to prove the person meets the criteria for commitment.”
Conley said that in the past, the MHP professionals have seen a lot of turnover. The contract with United Minds is expected to bring more predictability to the process.
The contract was also reviewed and evaluated by the county’s public defender.
“It’s an absolute essential service, and also essential that we trust the opinion of our MHP and the judgment of our MHP,” said Conley. “It’s also essential that the public defender, which represents most respondents in these proceedings, trusts the judgment of the MHP.”