Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Montana to invest $80M in community mental health services

HELENA (AP) — Montana plans to invest $16 million annually over the next five years to expand community-based services for people with severe and disabling mental illness, officials said.

The funding under an existing Medicaid waiver benefit option will increase the number of people already receiving services from 357 to 750 by 2025, The Great Falls Tribune reported  Monday.

The proposal will serve more people discharged from Montana State Hospital, Montana Mental Health Nursing Care Center and those using the Money Follows the Person program, officials said.

The plan is contingent on approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and is part of an existing Department of Public Health and Human Services federal waiver.

State officials said Monday they are confident the measure will be approved.

The program called the Medicaid Severe and Disabling Mental Illness — Home and Community Based Services Waiver is a partnership between the state and CMS.

The program has delivered more than $9 million in local services since 2018, officials said.

The public health and human services department will fund the increase using $2.4 million in unspent funds to match an additional $4.6 million from CMS each year.


Hunter education in schools

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — A Wyoming legislative resolution seeks to make firearms and hunter safety courses a regular part of the public school curriculum.

The resolution urges the Department of Game and Fish to coordinate with the Department of Education to provide the courses as a voluntary high school physical education elective, The Casper Star-Tribune reported  Monday.

The measure filed with the Legislative Service Office this week is sponsored by Republican Sen. Ogden Driskill, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The non-binding resolution that has nine co-sponsors in the House and Senate would expand an established game and fish department program to provide teachers with firearms and hunting education.

The game and fish department has offered training and curriculum to any school submitting a request for more than a decade, spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo wrote in an email.

Schools with teachers willing to teach hunter education currently must gain permission from their school districts, DiRienzo said.

Hunter education was offered as an elective at 11 schools in 2019 including a high school, an elementary school and nine junior high schools.

The curriculum and materials including posters, pelts, inert firearms, and bear spray are furnished by the department.



Ranked-choice caucus voting

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming Democratic Party is implementing a ranked-choice voting system for its upcoming presidential caucuses.

Democrats in Alaska, Nevada, Hawaii and Kansas also are implementing ranked-choice voting this year.

Ranked choice gives caucus participants more satisfaction with their vote, Teton County Democratic Party Chairwoman Marylee White  told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

“It makes you look at all of the candidates on the basis of ‘Who would be OK with me? If my preferential candidate doesn’t win, who would I also support?’ “ White said.

Under the system, votes at the county level will be counted in stages. If one or more candidate gets less than 15% of the first-choice vote, the lowest-performing candidate will be taken out of the running.

Second-choice votes will then be allocated among the remaining candidates. The process will be repeated until all remaining candidates have more than 15%.

Delegates will then be allocated in proportion to the votes for each candidate.

The Wyoming Democratic Party will hold its presidential nominating caucuses April 4.



Grizzly captures, kills down

CODY, Wyo. (AP) — Wildlife managers relocated or killed substantially fewer grizzly bears in northwestern Wyoming in 2019 compared to 2018.

Abundant natural food such as berries helped keep bears away from livestock and other non-natural sources of food, said Wyoming Game and Fish Department large carnivore conflict coordinator Brian DeBolt.

“It’s definitely a good thing,”  DeBolt told The Cody Enterprise.

Department officials captured 33 different grizzlies in 2019 and one bear twice, down from 59 in 2018, according to an annual Game and Fish Department report.

Of the 33 bears captured, 17 were killed after being deemed too accustomed to seeking non-natural food to be returned safely to the wild.