Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Missoula County on Tuesday agreed to apply revenue from a mental health mill levied by the county in 1999 to support the opening of the Riverwalk Crisis Center.

The center, which opened on Monday, provides community-based support for people experiencing a behavioral health crisis. The mental health mill will provide around $232,000 to help the new center get on its feet.

“This is very timely because they just had a grand opening yesterday,” said Erin Kautz, a grants administer with the county. “This amount will help go for some general operating costs before they start getting revenue in from Medicaid and other external revenue sources.”

The city and county in recent years have taken steps to fill what many providers see as an unmet need in Missoula when it comes to behavioral health, that being the city's lack of a crisis receiving center.

With the need identified, Missoula County last year approved an agreement with the Western Montana Mental Health Center and directed $113,000 in grant funding to help establish the receiving center.

It also applied $1 million in ARPA funds while Providence St. Patrick Hospital applied funding from a trust to help build the center. The facility provides trauma-informed care for those experiencing a behavioral health crisis.

Kautz said the mental health mill has been levied by the county since 1999 and will help the center while its other revenue sources come on line.

“It's an already levied existing mill that has gone to fund various commissioner initiatives in the past,” she said. “Part of it goes to fund the County Attorney's Office to help mental health professions respond to voluntary commitment cases. Some of it went to the Mobile Support Team. It goes toward funding crisis services in town.”

While voters opposed funding a dedicated crisis services levy last year, the proposal's campaign often noted the costs borne by taxpayers when addressing acute mental health emergencies in Missoula. Trips to the emergency room aren't cheap, nor is housing an individual in the county jail.

While the new Riverwalk Center will provide options when dealing with patients in crisis., the history of the actual mill carries some uncertainty, though it's fixed at 0.39 mills and the value of that figure has changed over the years.

“The mental health mill has been around since 1999. It's almost been unchanged over that period of time,” said county CFO Andrew Czorny. “It has been fixed at .39 mills. It has acted like a voter mill over the years, but I've never found any documentation to substantiate that it's a voted mill.”