Senate considers adding family/marriage therapy to state Medicaid

Jon Knokey

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – It’s the Montana Senate’s turn to hear a bill that would include marriage and family therapist services under the state’s Medicaid program.

The bill passed the House in March on a 91-9 vote, and will be heard in the Senate on Monday.

House Bill 637 would draw $25,000 from the state’s general fund for the Department of Public Health and Human Services to extend the department’s coverage.

Rep. Jon Knokey, R-Bozeman, is the sponsor of the bill. He said his bill addresses drug use and mental health challenges in the state.

“What I want to do is start the conversation of, ‘how do we invest in mental health issues and curbing drug issues,’ so that we can take care of the citizen,” Knokey said.

Knokey said Montana is one of 13 states that doesn’t include the services under the state’s program. He said this piece of legislation takes care of citizens and empowers them.

“What government needs to do, and the investments that we need to make should be preventative and upfront – and not downstream,” Knokey said.

Cyndi McNeil, a marriage and family therapist from Hamilton, supported the bill at a committee hearing. She said she was able to get reimbursed for seeing children while practicing in Kansas.

“When I moved to Montana I could not get reimbursed for Medicaid, therefore I am unable to see children who have been abused, neglected, removed from their homes,” McNeil said.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.