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Our Work Behavioral Health

Providing leadership to help Montana’s behavioral health system build a strong continuum of care

We increase access to effective prevention programs, early diagnosis, and effective treatment options for people with behavioral health issues like mental illness and substance use disorders. Behavioral health is a primary issue for communities throughout Montana, many of which face a longstanding shortage of prevention programs and specialty treatment services – especially in rural areas.

Addressing behavioral health issues, like mental illness and substance use disorders, is a top priority for Montana communities. In surveys of health needs carried out by Montana’s local health departments and hospitals, behavioral health issues rank as the most important health challenges in many Montana communities.

Historically, there has been a severe shortage of prevention specialty treatment options, especially in remote rural areas. The statistics that show how the lack of prevention and treatment options has impacted Montanans are grim: Montana consistently has among the highest rates of mortality due to drugs, alcohol, and suicide in the nation.

  • Between 2007 and 2018, drug overdoses were the fourth leading cause of injury-related death, accounting for over 1,400 lives lost in the state.
  • In 2019, nearly 80% of substance use-related emergency medical service calls involved alcohol (the most commonly used substance).
  • In 2020, alcohol-related deaths surged, accounting for over 260 deaths – the most in the last 20 years.
  • 250 Montanans take their own lives annually. 42% of suicide victims had alcohol in their systems.
  • In 2019, one-in-ten high school students reported a suicide attempt in the previous year.

Primary care plays a central role in screening for, diagnosing, and treating mental illness and substance use disorders in Montana and nationally. We focus on integrating behavioral health into primary and prenatal care to ensure these practices have the resources to provide team-based care and meet the needs of their communities. We also support a range of prevention and specialty behavioral health treatment initiatives.

Since 2015, we have increased the availability of prevention and treatment options by funding 242 projects with $16 million.

We have also leveraged our resources to help secure $49 million in federal and private grants.


The initiatives we developed as part of our work in behavioral health include:


Need assistance?

Siri Eliasen
Program Assistant