Lara Salizar

In the vibrant tapestry of a community's well-being, a fundamental thread stands out — access to comprehensive healthcare.

Comprehensive healthcare recognizes and addresses the interconnectedness of physical, mental, and social well-being, and it provides an essential foundation for individuals and families to live healthy lives. Healthy individuals are the building blocks of a healthy community, and when our community is healthy, everyone benefits.

A comprehensive healthcare approach focuses on driving positive health outcomes, even when that requires strategies beyond the scope of traditional healthcare. Factors such as housing, education, income, and opportunity are critical components of an individual’s ability to achieve good health. Addressing these social drivers of health is far more than a moral imperative; it is a data-informed investment in both the strength of our communities and the fight to end homelessness.

Medicaid, a lifeline for working taxpayers and people earning lower wages, ensures that everyone in our communities can access comprehensive healthcare. It allows organizations like Partnership Health Center and others to provide medical, dental, behavioral health and other innovative services to everyone, regardless of income level.

Preventative care, a Medicaid cornerstone, covers regular check-ups and screenings to identify and address health issues proactively. It mitigates factors like overreliance on emergency rooms (which we all pay for) and unaffordable medical bills. This presents a compelling economic case for Medicaid. Preventative care fosters workforce continuity and productivity, reduces economic strain, curtails the spread of disease within our community, and promotes economic growth, all of which are vital components in preventing individuals and families from falling into homelessness.

Mental health, often overlooked, is also integral to well-being. Medicaid coverage extends to mental health services, again recognizing the interplay between mental and physical health. According to a 2024 report from the Montana Healthcare Foundation, “in 2022, nearly one of every three Montana Medicaid members (both adults and children) had a behavioral health diagnosis.”  Destigmatizing mental health challenges and ensuring accessibility to services reflects a society that prioritizes the overall health of its citizens, and it can be instrumental in preventing issues around mental health that lead to or prolong homelessness.

Comprehensive healthcare and Medicaid coverage empower individuals and communities to achieve good health, fostering resilience and a sense of shared responsibility. Investing in the well-being of all builds bridges of empathy, acknowledging that the health of one directly impacts the health of all, and it plays a pivotal role in mitigating the compounded negative health outcomes of being unhoused.

Providing Medicaid coverage and comprehensive healthcare is a strategic investment in the strength and resilience of communities. As we work to solve complex challenges like housing insecurity, let us recognize that a truly prosperous community upholds and safeguards the health and well-being of each member, preventing the cycles of poverty that often lead to homelessness and ensuring a brighter future for all.

Lara Salazar is the chief executive officer at Partnership Health Center, Missoula County’s non-profit Community Health Center.