Governance: The Center Operates as a not for profit, tax exempt, public purpose corporation (501)(c)(3) under state and federal designation. The Board meets monthly to assure effective governance and administration of all Center interests. The public is invited to attend meetings. The Center provides services in (15) counties of western and southwestern Montana. Participating counties for 2016 include: Lincoln, Flathead, Sanders, Lake, Mineral, Missoula, Ravalli, Granite, Powell, Deer Lodge, Silver Bow, Beaverhead, Gallatin, Madison and Park.
Today's Mental Health Center: The Western Montana Mental Health Center of 2016 provides services in 45 separate facilities/locations in western and southwestern Montana. The Center maintains full time staff and programs in 12 of their 15 service counties. The number of employees in July 2016 is 845. Programs include case management, crisis response teams in the major population centers, crisis stabilization facilities, adult and youth group homes, day treatment, drop in centers, vocational services, outpatient, medical outpatient, independent living and chemical dependency outpatient treatment. The Center has moved in recent years to development and operation of various housing programs to help insure adequate and affordable housing options for the consumers it serves. Programs are increasingly dedicated to the following service populations:
• adults with a serious mental illness
• adults with substance use problems
• youth with serious emotional disturbances
• youth with substance use problems
• veterans eligible for mental health care under a special VA contract
• individuals with co-occurring mental health & substance use problems
The Center also offers school based programs, prevention services and comprehensive school and community treatment programs in multiple public school districts. The largest segment of the Center’s finances come from Medicaid and contracts with the Montana State Dept. of Public Health and Human Services. County government remains integrally involved in the governance of the Center and is a significant funding source for local programs. In 2001, the Board of Directors chartered a separate subsidiary corporation for purposes of oversight and development of substance abuse treatment services called Western Montana Addiction Services(WMAS). WMAS is providing services in Missoula, Ravalli, Mineral Counties as of September 2014. The board has authorized the establishment of two client housing development corporations (Garden City Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) and the Flathead-Lake CHDO, which continue to operate as subsidiary corporations of the Center.
Center Historical Review: Prior to the opening of the Center, the State Department of Institutions funded and administered five community mental health clinics in the state. One of the clinics was located in Missoula and was housed in the basement of the Student Health Center at the University of Montana. This clinic, with a modest staff of six, was responsible for serving the counties of Western Montana. Services were almost exclusively outpatient and, due to the limited staff, outreach efforts throughout the Region were very minimal. It has been noted, in review of various early documents of the clinic, that limited efforts were made to provide consultation services to some of the more isolated communities of the Region. The expectation, however, was that clients would commute to Missoula where services would be provided within the clinic. Although it is not known just when this clinic initiated services, there are old records suggesting that the clinic opened in 1942. Employees of this clinic were all staff members of the State of Montana and they answered directly to the superintendent of the Warm Springs State Hospital. There was considerable isolation of the staff as direct contact with the State Hospital was minimal. Supervision and consultation with staff members at that institution was very limited and, in truth, the clinic was an autonomous unit, which operated with very little direction outside of its own staff.
Federal Involvement: Montana's interest in the development of comprehensive community mental health centers was sparked by the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health that was established by Congress under the Mental Health Study Act of 1955. Montana received funds to study its mental health needs and resources and for a five-year period effort was devoted towards the development of a plan which would provide effective services to the residents of Montana. With the passage of federal staffing and construction grant programs by Congress in 1963, the Montana State legislature passed complementary bills which enabled the State to become a responsible partner with the federal government in the establishment of regional mental health centers. Five mental health regions were established within the state and Boards, comprised of a county commissioner from each county within the Region, were designated as the authority for governance of the community-based mental health programs. On July 15, 1969, the Western Montana Regional Community Mental Health Center Board submitted to the National Institute of Mental Health an application requesting federal staffing grant funds under the provision of Public Law 89-105. The application was reviewed by federal authorities and, following the revision of the original grant, the program was approved on September 1, 1969. However, federal funds were not available at the time the grant was approved and a period of approximately 16 months lapsed before federal funds were appropriated. The Center initiated services on January 1, 1971, utilizing local, state, and federal funds. Offices were opened in Ravalli, Lake, Sanders, Flathead and Lincoln Counties in addition to the existing Missoula-based outpatient office. The original (1971) staff numbered 20 including: 11 clinicians; 7 clerical workers; a business manager, and regional director.