U.S. SENATE — As the top Republican on the U.S. Senate Finance Subcommittee on Heath Care, Senator Steve Daines today led a hearing on improving mental health and addiction services in our communities, where he highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Montana.
Click HERE to watch and download the Senator’s opening remarks.
“May is Mental Health Awareness Month – an issue at the top of my mind and many others following a year of isolation for Montanans and Americans across the country,” Daines said. “Since the pandemic, lockdowns, economic hardships, and social isolation have only helped intensify what we already know – we need mental health services in our communities, and we need to make it a priority.”
Daines invited Lenette Kosovich, CEO of Rimrock in Billings, as a witness to share her experience on the complex issues facing Montana’s behavioral health service providers, especially as the pandemic exacerbated issues like meth addiction.
Click HERE to watch and download the Senator’s exchange with Kosovich on meth in Montana.
During the hearing, Daines discussed the impact the southern border crisis is having on Montana, specifically Mexican meth flowing into the state and devastating communities.
In response to Daines’ statement, Kosovich said the amount of crime Montana is experiencing because of meth is “seriously out of control.”
Kosovich discussed working with former U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme about the meth crisis and stated that Alme said unequivocally there are 5 different Mexican cartels using I-90 to bring meth straight into Montana.
During the hearing, Daines also discussed the correlation between employment and mental health, highlighting that a job can help provide a sense of purpose and dignity in addition to a paycheck. Daines stressed the importance of incentivizing Montanans getting back to work versus paying them to stay home.
Additionally, Daines highlighted the importance of reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment in rural states like Montana, suggesting a solution is to think outside the box when it comes to increasing access like having more telehealth options to serve those seeking mental health services.
Kosovich agreed with Daines on the need for Montanans to have access to mental health services outside of the traditional brick and mortar doctor’s office.
Montana is one of the top five states with the highest suicide rates.
Watch and download the second hearing exchange HERE.