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Healthcare news from Montana Public Radio.

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Montana Capitol dome, Helena.
William Marcus

Montana’s Medicaid expansion program got a progress report today from an oversight committee of lawmakers and health care professionals. While the state’s uninsured rate continues to drop, the job services aspect of the HELP Act isn’t doing as well as supporters had hoped.

Job Service officies statewide, like this one in Kalispell, are offering special help to new Medicaid recipients
Eric Whitney

Medicaid expansion barely passed Montana's Legislature last year. One of the reasons it was able to get enough Republican votes is because it included a component to encourage Medicaid recipients to get jobs, or better-paying jobs, so they could get off of Medicaid and buy their own health insurance.

Tuesday afternoon, a legislative oversight committee is taking a look at how that work component is going.

Ida Follette(r) and her husband Darrell Follette speaking about the suicide of their daughter Chelle Rose Follette, aged 13, at their home. Taken Feb. 2011, Poplar, MT on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.
Mike Albans

Montana’s suicide rate is nearly double the national average. In the last two years, more than 550 Montanans killed themselves. Twenty-seven of them were adolescents.

The Montana Department of Veterans Affairs is hosting a town hall-style meeting Thursday night in Helena. 

"The event is open to the public, so any veteran or family member, or member of the general public that just wants to learn a little more about what the VA provides are welcome to join us that evening,” said Mike Garcia, Public Affairs Officer for the Montana VA.

Montana VA Appoints New Permanent Director

Oct 28, 2016
New Permanent VA Director Dr. Kathy Berger
Courtesy of Veterans Administration

The woman who has been interim director of the Montana Veterans Administration Health Care System since June was named permanent director Friday.

St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula.
Courtesy St. Patrick Hospital

In 2015, the Montana Hospital Association enthusiastically backed Medicaid expansion in Montana. A big reason was that in the first half of the year, they gave away nearly $71 million in free, or “charity” healthcare to people who had no health coverage.

After the legislature narrowly passed Medicaid expansion, Hospital Association President Dick Brown says, "the actual expectation was that charity care would go down, because a lot of the individuals who are now on Medicaid were receiving care at no cost to them, because they couldn’t afford it."

Flu activity in Montana since last October
Montana DPHHS

Five cases of flu have been confirmed in Missoula and Lewis and Clark Counties. These are the first flu cases of the season in Montana.

Flu, Stomach Bug Outbreaks Hit Five Flathead Health Facilities
(PD)

Half a dozen health care systems in Montana are sharing more than $700,000 in grants to make mental or behavioral health care easier to get.

The Montana Healthcare Foundation says it's making the grants to support better healthcare for people who have a combination of medical problems and mental illness and/or addiction. It plans to award more than $3 million to the initiative over the next two years.

  The suicide rate in Montana is nearly twice the national average, and for years, has ranked among the highest in the U.S.

As part of the University of Montana’s Brain Initiative, internationally recognized psychiatrist and researcher Dr. John Rush will speak in Missoula on Wednesday. He’ll deliver a public lecture on why effective treatment for suicidality and depression is still elusive for so many.

Barbara Dryden, center, and Richard Blank, to her left, tell Governor Steve Bullock about the challenges family caregivers face Monday at Missoula Aging Services.
Kim Hutcheson, Missoula Aging Services

Governor Steve Bullock and Democratic State Senator Diane Sands say the state legislature should boost spending on assistance programs for the elderly by $1.6 million.

They made the pitch at a visit to Missoula Aging Services Monday. There, Bullock and Sands heard from people who’ve used the kinds of assistance they want to expand.

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