Democratic Legislators Go to Bat for Student Mental Health Care

Hadley Stack2022, Arntzen, News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, January 21, 2022

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Democratic Legislators Go to Bat for Student Mental Health Care

Holding Elsie Arntzen accountable for steering the program “off a cliff”

Helena, MT – In Thursday’s Children, Families, Health and Human Services Committee meeting, Democratic Legislators put Superintendent of the Office Public Instruction (OPI) Elsie Arntzen in the hot seat, questioning why her department has failed to provide a clear path forward for the Comprehensive School and Community Treatment (CSCT) program, which provides critical mental health services to children across Montana.

Senator Mary McNally (D-Billings) questioned OPI Administrators about the lack of progress on CSCT. “I just have to say, this is a case study in how to take an important, valuable, and critical mental health resource for kids, and blow it up.”  [Timestamp: 12:19:10] 

Representative Danny Tenenbaum (D-Missoula) called the failure of the OPI “like driving off a cliff and everyone knows it but no one is stopping it.” [Timestamp: 12:21:29]

Representative Mary Caferro (D-Helena) condemned the OPI for creating unnecessary administrative burdens that have crippled the program and have prevented critical mental health services from reaching students. She asked three times what OPI’s back-up plan was for students, now that the bridge funding had run out. She never received a straightforward answer. [Timestamp: 12:30:20]

Providing mental health counseling has never been so critical for our children and our students. There is a nearly 30% decline in students who receive mental health counseling from last year, but the demand for services has only increased. As many as 2 out of every 5 Montana students are showing signs of depression.

“Democrats shouldn’t be the only legislators who are demanding answers. Everyone should be concerned at this failure of leadership,” says Executive Director Sheila Hogan. “Elsie said it would be fixed by February. Montana Democratic Legislators will hold her to that.”

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