The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) in partnership with the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) today announced a new process to serve our students with mental and behavioral health services through the Comprehensive School and Community Treatment, or CSCT, program. The agencies officially issued joint guidance to school districts on August 25, 2021 implementing these changes, which will ensure the viability and accountability of the program for the foreseeable future. The Montana Legislature transferred administrative duties of the program from DPHHS to the OPI this spring.

“Our children’s mental health and well-being are a priority as we move forward this school year,” said State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen. “We work tirelessly to cut through the red tape and complexities, as many students count on these services being delivered at school. I am confident our schools join me in recognizing the critical need and accessibility of mental and behavioral health services to enhance learning. As the new caretaker for CSCT, the OPI stands ready to put Montana students first.”

DPHHS Director Adam Meier said, “We appreciate working with OPI on this important transition. This has been an excellent partnership. We know this program is important to the children and families of Montana, especially as we look to support mental health in schools during these challenging times. DPHHS looks forward to continuing its role in enhancing the health of Montana’s youth with continued work improving access to what has been and will continue to be a successful program.”

“Suicide is a crisis in my community,” Representative Frank Garner of Kalispell said. “We can’t be satisfied with these outcomes. We must leave no stone unturned when it comes to analyzing how to strategically respond. When it comes to existing programs like CSCT, we must assess every resource to make sure we are doing everything in our power to save lives and give our friends and neighbors hope.”

“I am pleased that OPI and DPHHS came together to solve the CSCT funding and access issues on behalf of vulnerable students across Montana,” said Representative Llew Jones of Conrad. “Access to mental health services is a critical component of successful schools. This is a great example of what responsive, service-oriented government is supposed to do.”

Representative David Bedey of Hamilton said, “CSCT is a school-based program that serves students with special needs. OPI is the agency best suited for ensuring effective implementation of the program and for re-assessing its efficacy.”

The new guidance to school districts provides an understanding of the new non-federal matching fund arrangements through Medicaid. Options are given to schools to obtain matching funding to meet the Legislature’s directive to minimize ‘the administrative burden on school districts.’ Pursuant to HB 2 and HB 671, the OPI is utilizing bridge funding of $2,235,578 provided by the Legislature, effective from July 1, to assist our school districts in covering the non-federal match requirement while DPHHS completes its process with CMS. Through August 31, 2021, $421,687.78 has been expended from the bridge funding.

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