I-185 is a good thing for Montana not only because it will reduce tobacco addiction in Montana, but because it provides critical funding to maintain the largest behavioral health program in Montana: Medicaid expansion.

Tobacco-related diseases cost Montana taxpayers $440 million/year in Montana, including $81 million to Medicaid alone. Every tax-paying household pays almost $800/year to cover these costs regardless of the fact that 80% of us are not tobacco users. That doesn’t seem fair.

I-185 also designates some of the tax revenue to support Medicaid Expansion, the program that expanded access to healthcare to 100,000 low-income Montanans. I’m a behavioral health specialist and I’ve seen firsthand what it means for thousands of Montanans to finally have access to mental health and substance use treatment. It’s life-changing for so many people who have struggled to get the help they need.

Tobacco companies are lying to you and withholding real facts and figures about tobacco use and Medicaid funding. Medicaid Expansion pays for itself, not only in the short-term with savings and new revenue, but in the long-term with costs reduced and lives saved. Support I-185 – don’t let tobacco companies fool you with scare tactics.

Supporting I-185 saves Montana lives.

Tammera Nauts, LCSW, LAC.