Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Looking to provide a continuum of care in mental health services, western Montana's largest provider on Tuesday received a boost from Missoula County, which agreed to float the organization a $750,000 loan.

The county also established a $1 million revolving loan for mental health services, a move intended to help providers meet current demand for care.

“In our last needs assessment, people said housing and mental health care were their top two concerns. They're not mutually exclusive,” said Commission Josh Slotnick.

Officials with the Western Montana Mental Health Center approach the county last week asking for financial support to help the organization shore up funding as it waits for the state's new Medicaid reimbursement rates to take effect.

Without the county's support and until Medicaid kicks in, the health center said it would remain financially vulnerable and unable to provide or expand services across the region. Among them, it's looking to open a crisis receiving center in Kalispell, similar to the center it recently opened in Missoula.

“This fund allows us to start moving into these other communities and really stabilize our resources here in Missoula, which allows the organization to stretch out and stabilized across our entire program,” said interim director Colleen Rudio. “If our urban system is not stabilized and we don't have the continuum of care, we can't take that and bring that to other communities. Missoula has to be stable at its core for this organization's existence.”

Missoula County received funding through the American Rescue Plan Act and a portion of it was earmarked for mental health. The county was looking to disperse the funding in fiscal years '25 and '26. But on Tuesday, it agreed to establish a revolving loan fund now, which providers can use if needed.

In addition, the county approved a $750,000 loan to the Western Montana Mental Health Center from the newly established fund. The loan will be repaid as the provider begins receiving reimbursement from Medicaid.

Rudio said the funding is vital for the organization to avoid breaks in the continuum of care.

“There's a very high need. When you have breaks in your care, any break in that continuum unfortunately puts forth an opportunity for an individual to have a break in their cycle of recovery. That's what all the efforts taking place across the state are trying to eliminate,” said Rudio.