Montana lawmakers are considering changes to how the state spends millions of dollars generated by marijuana sales on mental health and addiction treatments.
In its first two years, the Healing and Ending Addiction through Recovery and Treatment (HEART) fund has given grants to tribal nations, county jails and Medicaid services for addiction prevention and treatment.
Two bills under consideration in the House Human Services Committee would make changes to where and how the money is spent.
Matt Kuntz, the executive director of mental health advocacy group NAMI Montana, testified in support of a bill to outline those funds explicitly for youth suicide prevention.
“We thought that we had youth suicide prevention in the HEART account in mental health promotion. But it was clear that not everybody quite saw that. So it needed to be spelled out,” he said.
The rate of youth suicide in Montana is double the national average. The proposal to dedicate funds for prevention efforts passed unanimously out of committee.
Another bill would require that the state health department report to the Legislature how the HEART fund’s money is spent.
Republican Rep. Jennifer Carlson from Manhattan says that lawmakers don’t currently know how much of the HEART fund’s $50 millionare being used. “I think we can just all agree that when the legislature is appropriating, we're having money spent we should know where it's going,” Carlson said.
The committee didn’t take immediate action on that bill.
Gov. Greg Gianforte has requested a 50% increase for the fund in the 2025 biennium.
Montana Public Radio | By Ellis Juhlin