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Articles written by Katheryn Houghton


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  • Addiction Treatment Homes Say Montana's Funding Fixes Don't Go Far Enough

    Katheryn Houghton, KFF|May 22, 2024

    Montana health officials have started a voucher system to help people with substance use disorders move into transitional housing as they rebuild their lives. But those who run the clinical houses said the new money isn’t enough to fix a financial hole after a prior state revamp. Residential treatment facilities are usually nondescript homes tucked into neighborhoods. The state’s lowest-intensity homes can provide people with alcohol and drug addiction leaving inpatient care a bridge to independent living. They’re the final option of four...

  • Some Medicaid Providers Borrow or Go Into Debt Amid 'Unwinding' Payment Disruptions

    Katheryn Houghton, KFF Health News|Apr 3, 2024

    George said the company didn’t have enough money to pay its employees. When he called state health and public assistance officials for help, he said, they told him they were swamped processing a high load of Medicaid cases, and that his residents would have to wait their turn. “I’ve mentioned to some of them, ‘Well what do we do if we’re not being paid for four or five months? Do we have to evict the resident?’” he asked. Instead, the company took out bank loans at 8% interest, George said. Montana officials finished their initial checks of who...

  • Health Care Workers Push for Their Own Confidential Mental Health Treatment

    Katheryn Houghton, KFF Health News|Feb 28, 2024

    States are redefining when medical professionals can get mental health treatment without risking notifying the boards that regulate their licenses. Too often, health care workers wait to seek counseling or addiction treatment, causing their work and patient care to suffer, said Jean Branscum, CEO of the Montana Medical Association, an industry group representing doctors. “They’ve invested so much time in their career,” Branscum said. “To have anything jeopardize that is a big worry on their mind.” Montana, like other states, has a recovery...

  • Montana Health department vows changes to avoid delayed contracts

    Katheryn Houghton, KFF Health News|Feb 7, 2024

    The head of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services said the agency has nearly cleared its backlog of incomplete contracts that risked people’s access to health services. Even so, some organizations say the state still owes them tens of thousands of dollars for services already provided. Director Charlie Brereton told state lawmakers during a Children, Families, Health, and Human Services Interim Committee meeting on Jan. 18 that the agency had nearly finished finalizing overdue contracts with organizations that provide p... Full story

  • Delays in State Contracts Leave Montana Health Providers Strapped

    Katheryn Houghton, KFF Health News|Jan 17, 2024

    Montana health organizations say a state government backlog in paying its contractors has hindered their ability to provide care, and they worry the bottleneck's ripple effects will be felt long after the money comes through. Several organizations waiting for contracts to be approved and funding to arrive said that more than 200 private and public contractors across the state government were affected at one point. Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services officials acknowledged the... Full story

  • Millions in Opioid Settlement Funds Sit Untouched as Montana Overdose Deaths Rise

    Katheryn Houghton and Aneri Pattani, KFF|Jan 3, 2024

    Nearly a year after Montana began receiving millions of dollars to invest in efforts to combat the opioid crisis, much of that money remains untouched. Meanwhile, the state's opioid overdose and death counts continue to rise. The money is part of the approximately $50 billion that states and local governments will receive nationwide in opioid settlement funds over nearly two decades. The payments come from more than a dozen companies that made, distributed, or sold prescription opioid... Full story

  • A Montana Addiction Clinic Wants to Motivate People With Rewards-- then Came a Medicaid Fraud Probe

    Katheryn Houghton, KHN|Jan 4, 2023

    A Montana addiction clinic’s plan to give people with substance use disorders as much as $1,966.50 in gift cards and vouchers to follow its treatment program is raising questions about the use of financial incentives with patients. The tug of war over the effective but largely unregulated tool is playing out in the northwestern Montana town of Kalispell, where a local government grant is financing rewards for people who stick with treatment provided by the outpatient clinic Oxytocin. Such incentives have gained momentum among individual h... Full story

  • The Pandemic Exacerbates the 'Paramedic Paradox' in Rural America

    Katheryn Houghton, KHN|Apr 20, 2022

    Even after she's clocked out, Sarah Lewin keeps a Ford Explorer outfitted with medical gear parked outside her house. As one of just four paramedics covering five counties across vast, sprawling eastern Montana, she knows a call that someone had a heart attack, was in a serious car crash, or needs life support and is 100-plus miles away from the nearest hospital can come at any time. "I've had as much as 100 hours of overtime in a two-week period," said Lewin, the battalion chief for the Miles...

  • Under Pressure, Montana Hospital Considers Adding Psych Beds Amid a Shortage

    Katheryn Houghton, KHN|Sep 22, 2021

    Gary Popiel had to drive more than 200 miles round trip to visit his adult daughters in separate behavioral health facilities as they received psychiatric and medical treatment. It was 2000, and the family's only options for inpatient psychiatric beds were in Helena and Missoula - far from their Bozeman, Montana, home and from each other. Fast-forward 21 years, and Montana's fourth-largest city still lacks a hospital behavioral health unit. "This would be just as traumatic now as it was then....

  • In Mental Health Crises, a 911 Call Now Brings a Mixed Team of Helpers

    Katheryn Houghton, KHN|Jun 23, 2021

    By the time Kiki Radermacher, a mental health therapist, arrived at a Missoula, Montana, home on an emergency 911 call in late May, the man who had called for help was backed into a corner and yelling at police officers. The home, which he was renting, was about to be sold. He had called 911 when his fear of becoming homeless turned to thoughts of killing himself. "I asked him, 'Will you sit with me?'" recalled Radermacher, a member of the city's mobile crisis response team who answered the...

  • How Escalating COVID Cases Forced Montana to Change Its Masking Strategy

    Katheryn Houghton, Kaiser Health News|Nov 11, 2020

    In Montana’s conservative Flathead County, prosecutors and local leaders were turning a blind eye to businesses that flouted state mask and social distancing mandates, even as the area’s COVID infections climbed to their highest levels. When asked during an Oct. 7 press call from Montana’s capital city whether the state would step in, Gov. Steve Bullock said it was up to the locals to enforce the directives. “I’ve never met anyone in Flathead County, especially Flathead government, that has asked me to take over their government,” Bullock sai...