A fund championed by Gov. Greg Gianforte to fill gaps in Montana’s substance use and behavioral health treatment programs has spent $5.2 million since last year as the state waits for an additional $19 million in federal funding.
Now, the Republican governor wants to put more state money into the Healing and Ending Addiction Through Recovery and Treatment initiative, but lawmakers and mental health advocates are asking for more accountability and clarity on how the money is spent.
Republican Rep. Jennifer Carlson, chair of the Human Services Committee of the Montana House of Representatives, said her committee has heard bill proposals seeking to use HEART money for child care and suicide prevention programs, among others. She is sponsoring a bill to increase HEART initiative reporting requirements.
“You really have to think, is that what that money is for, or is that just what’s convenient?” said Carlson.
Matt Kuntz, executive director of the Montana chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said a lot of questions have been floating around about the initiative this legislative session.
“Nobody really knows exactly how this is being spent or the process of how to get it,” Kuntz said.
The legislature passed Gianforte’s HEART initiative soon after he took office. It uses revenue primarily from recreational marijuana taxes for the state’s $6 million annual share to be distributed to programs dedicated to tre …