Providing leadership to build a strong continuum of care. 

Mental illness and substance use disorders are common, serious problems in Montana. Behavioral health is a term that is commonly used to describe this spectrum of illnesses and the fields of healthcare that address them. In surveys of health needs carried out by Montana’s local health departments and hospitals, these issues rank as the most important health challenges in many Montana communities. Among Montana youth, more than 29% report symptoms consistent with depression, and 23.5% of high school students report binge drinking within the past month. A recent national survey examined the prevalence of behavioral health problems and corresponding access, or lack thereof, to services for treatment in each U.S. state: Montana ranked 44th worst overall and 49th for youth. A serious shortage of treatment for Montanans struggling with behavioral health disorders complicates the problem. In 2016, only 25% of Montana’s mental health professional needs were met, placing us in the bottom five of all states; 10 Montana counties had no state-approved substance use treatment program; and, Montana’s substance use treatment system met only roughly one third of the estimated need for medication-assisted therapy.

Funding Opportunities

We are currently accepting two types of grant proposals: competitive grants submitted under the 2020 Call for Proposals and invited grants submitted under our specific Behavioral Health Initiatives, which include:

Integrated Behavioral

The Meadowlark Initiative

Substance Use Disorder Prevention and Treatment


Our Work in Behavioral Health

Behavioral Health Grantees

Montana Office of Public Instruction

School Wellness Initiative

Project Term: 24 months; 2020-2022
Grant Amount: $100,000

The Office of Public Instruction (OPI) will partner with the Montana Healthcare Foundation (MHCF) to support the implementation of a new initiative focused on school wellness. This initiative will support new partnerships between schools and high-performing health care providers (including federally qualified health centers, rural health centers, tribal health departments, and behavioral health providers) to create school-based health centers. The initiative will target roughly 70 schools with the highest concentration of students most in need of services, as judged by academic and health data (including alternative schools and those with the lowest academic performance). OPI will use grant funding to hire a new staff person dedicated to supporting the initiative. As part of this project, OPI will help enlist school participation and provide trauma-informed care training, coaching, and academic data reporting support. They will also help schools plan and implement participation in their Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) for students with behavioral issues, and identify and implement restorative discipline practices. Partnerships will be developed with local school districts, clinical service partners, public health, and the School-Based Health Alliance. The project’s overall goal is to improve student health and academic outcomes by providing in-school access to health care services and fostering a supportive school climate.


Flathead City-County Health Department

Developing a Plan to Transform the Behavioral Health System through Mapping

Grant Amount: $25,000
Dates: 2020-2021

The Flathead City-County Health Department will map the behavioral health system in Flathead County to identify specific treatment needs. As part of this project, a modified sequential intercept mapping (SIM) process will be used with a multidisciplinary team including experts in mental health, substance use disorders, law enforcement, housing, health, social services, and individuals directly impacted by mental health disorders. Grant funds will be used for project staff salaries and consultant fees for the mapping process. Partnerships for this project include Kalispell Regional Healthcare and the Flathead Community Health Center. Additional partners will also be invited to participate in the mapping process, including Sunburst Mental Health, Western Montana Mental Health, and law enforcement. The project’s overall goal is to map the behavioral health system in Flathead County to identify resources within the community, gaps in services, and the development of a community plan for improvement.


Strategic Planning to Expand Youth Development to Rural & Tribal Communities in Montana

Project Term: 12 months; 2019-2020
Grant Amount: $25,000

EmpowerMT will build youth leadership and promote trauma-informed, culturally relevant after school programs for middle and high school youth. They will do this by evaluating the outcomes of their current programs and completing a strategic planning process for expanding services to better meet the needs of rural and tribal schools in northwestern Montana. EmpowerMT’s current program promotes positive social-emotional learning (SEL) outcomes to support behavioral health in the youth they serve. Funding will be used to contract for program evaluation services and staff time to carry out the evaluation and strategic planning processes. Staff will also identify and evaluate SEL curriculums that have been shown to improve behavioral health outcomes in middle school and high school youth. EmpowerMT currently partners with schools in Missoula, Ronan, and Whitefish and will expand partnerships with schools in Thompson Falls and Hot Springs, as well as other schools in northwestern Montana. They will also work with the University of Montana, the Salish Kootenai Tribal College, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Education Department, and local Indian education for all parent advisory boards. The overall goal of this project is to evaluate and improve EmpowerMT’s SEL programs and services to better serve rural and tribal schools and improve the behavioral health outcomes of youth.

Jefferson County Mental Health Local Advisory Council

Support Our Youth Through Positive Parenting

Project Term: 12 months; 2019-2020
Grant Amount: $11,642

Through this project, the Jefferson County Mental Health Local Advisory Council will partner with the Jefferson County Health Department to deliver positive parenting classes to the residents of Jefferson County. This project stems from the identification of behavioral health as a top health concern in Jefferson County’s community health assessment. To take an upstream approach to improving behavioral health in the county, the health department and school nurse will use the state health department’s online parenting program, Parenting Montana, and a parenting curriculum known as “positive parenting” to encourage parenting practices that support the healthy child development. Grant funds will be used to purchase training materials and support program staff time to deliver the training and to work with community partners to identify good venues for program delivery. Partners involved in this project include the local advisory committee, county health department, local library, school nurse, elementary school, and Head Start. The overarching goal of this project is to establish healthy parenting practices that will support both parents and children and prevent behavioral health issues.

Montana Generational Justice Foundation

Estate Planning to Prevent Health Care Exploitation and Fraud

Project Term: 12 months; Ended 2019
Grant Amount: $30,000

The Montana Generational Justice Foundation partnered with hospitals and health care organizations across the state to provide legal services to patients. The services they offered patients included estate planning, health care power of attorney, and advanced directives. The grant’s advisory committee (with representatives from the Montana Hospital Association, Helena College Nursing Program, Veterans Affairs, the National Guard, medical providers, and lawyers) created an advanced directive document for statewide use. The advanced directive document will be available on the MSU Extension Services website. As part of this project, the Montana Generational Justice Foundation also created an initial sustainability plan to offer legal services at health care clinics across the state using a set fee covered by the health organization.