Tester, Baucus improving Montana’s mental health care

Senators back bills to better respond to mental illness, prevent suicide

(GREAT FALLS, Mont.) – Senator Jon Tester is backing three bills to improve care for Montanans with mental illness and to reduce the state’s suicide rate.

In the wake of December’s tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn., Tester is concerned about services available to individuals struggling with mental illness. His bipartisan Mental Health First Aid Act aims to help community leaders identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness.

Tester’s measure supports trainings that teach emergency personnel, teachers and parents the warning signs and risk factors for mental illnesses. Trainings would also teach de-escalation techniques to avoid conflicts.

“Concrete steps to improve care and increase resources available to cope with mental illness will help folks lead healthy, productive lives,” Tester said. “These bills improve on-the-ground access to life-saving tools and resources and make our communities safer places to live and work.”

Fellow Montana Senator Max Baucus also joins Tester in supporting the reauthorization of the bipartisan Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act and the Mental Health in Schools Act to reduce the high rate of suicide in Montana. The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act provides grants to develop early intervention and prevention strategies in communities and the Mental Health in Schools Act will help schools work with community organizations to improve mental health services.

“The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act has a strong track record of supporting Native American students in Montana and it’s important that our tribes continue to have this lifeline,” Baucus said. “In the spirit of working together, these bills provide tools so that everyone in our students’ lives can better team up to spot the signs of mental illness and expand access to care that works for students and their families.”

About 200 Montanans die each year from suicide. Risk factors include substance abuse, family history of suicide, unemployment and poverty.

Tester’s Mental Health First Aid Act is available online HERE and the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act is available online HERE.  The Mental Health in Schools Act is available online HERE.