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Articles written by Keely Larson


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  • With More People Giving Birth at Home, Montana lawmakers Passed a Pair of Laws to Make It Easier

    Keely Larson, KFF|Jul 19, 2023

    Ashley Jones’ three children were born in three different places — a hospital, a birth center, and at home. Jones, who is 31 and lives in Belgrade, Montana, said she had “zero control over what was going on” during her hospital birth. Jones wanted a midwife to help deliver her third child, and after finding one she clicked with, she decided to go with a home birth. “I felt like I was in control of everything and she was there to listen to what I needed from her,” Jones said. The only downside, from Jones’ perspective, was that her...

  • Montana Considers Requiring Insurance to Cover Fertility Preservation for Cancer Patients

    Keely Larson, KFF|May 3, 2023

    Katie Beall was diagnosed with breast cancer on March 1, 2022. Two days later, doctors told her the chemotherapy she needed would make her infertile. The next day, she started looking into how she could freeze her eggs, which would give her the option of becoming a mother in the future. Twenty-three days after her cancer diagnosis, the 36-year-old Helena resident said, she had put $7,579 on three credit cards to pay for her out-of-pocket fertility preservation costs. Her insurance didn’t cover it. In Montana, fertility preservation for newly...

  • Montana May Require Insurers to Cover Monitoring Devices for Diabetes

    Keely Larson, KFF|Apr 19, 2023

    In between sets of tumbling warmups, Adrienne Prashar crossed the gym to where she had stashed her diabetes supplies and tested her blood sugar. Prashar, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes the day before her 13th birthday, said tumbling usually drops her blood sugar levels. Prashar, now 14, did a finger stick, saw her blood sugar was 127, and went back to the mat. For most people with diabetes, the target range is about 80-130, and up to 180 two hours after meals. Prashar doesn't have to check her blood sugar often. She wears a continuous g... Full story

  • Amid Dire Suicide Rates in Montana, Governor Expands Student Mental Health Screening

    Keely Larson, KHN|Feb 22, 2023

    Bella Nyman has struggled with her mental health since age 7, when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety. Nyman said she was afraid to tell her parents she had thoughts of suicide. Looking back, a mental health screening might have helped her to stop hiding her struggles from adults and peers, she said. "Hard things don't get better if we don't talk about them," Nyman said. Today, Nyman works with the Rural Behavioral Health Institute, a Livingston, Montana-based organization that aims to reduce youth suicides by improving mental...

  • Montana Lawmakers Seek More Information About Governor Gianforte's HEART Fund

    Keely Larson, KHN|Feb 8, 2023

    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... Full story

  • Montana Pharmacists May Get More Power to Prescribe

    Keely Larson, KHN|Feb 1, 2023

    Mark Buck, a physician and pharmacist in Helena, Montana, said he’s been seeing more patients turn to urgent care clinics when they run out of medication. Their doctors have retired, moved away, or left the field because they burned out during the covid-19 pandemic, leaving the patients with few options to renew their prescriptions, he said. “Access is where we’re really hurting in this state,” Buck said. Senate Bill 112, sponsored by Republican Sen. Tom McGillvray, would address that need by expanding the limited authority Montana... Full story

  • Medicaid and Abortion Top Health Agenda for Montana Lawmakers

    Keely Larson, KHN-UM Legislative News Service|Jan 11, 2023

    HELENA, Mont. - Montana lawmakers said lowering costs and expanding patient access will be their top health care goals for the new legislative session. But they also will have to contend with making changes to Medicaid, a management crisis at the Montana State Hospital, and proposals to regulate abortion. Republicans, who hold a veto-proof majority, said they will focus on three areas of health care: transparency, costs, and patient options. Party leaders aim to keep "taking small bites that... Full story

  • Montana's muted 2022 fire season fizzles

    Keely Larson, Montana Free Press|Oct 26, 2022

    Early-summer moisture and unstrained resources for aggressive suppression conspired to deliver a more muted fire season than had been expected in spring. But in hindsight, meteorologists and land managers view summer 2022 as an outlier. Multiple factors led to a relatively light load for firefighters and Montanans' lungs, but hotter and drier climate trends that portend increasing wildfire intensity are still in store for the future. Heading into the season, all the elements were in place for a... Full story

  • How you can avoid causing Montana's next big wildfire

    Keely Larson, Montana Free Press|Aug 24, 2022

    For more than 70 years, Smokey the Bear has had the same message for us: Only you can prevent forest fires. The U.S. Forest Service's Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program, also known as the Smokey Bear Program, was created to prevent human-caused wildfires. In Montana, the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation reports 75% of wildfires as human-caused. Montana Free Press talked with experts about the most common things humans do that start wildfires and what people can do to uphold Smokey's message. Julia Berkey, DNRC's... Full story

  • The story of fire retardant

    Keely Larson, Montana Free Press|Aug 17, 2022

    A thick stream of red mist falling from an airplane is one of the most common and dramatic images of Montana's wildfire season. But while the photos may seem self-explanatory, that red mist - also called long-term fire retardant - has its own complicated story and history. There are three distinct types of fire retardant commonly deployed for firefighting, each with its own chemical makeup and criteria for use. Fire managers calculate a variety of factors, including the size of the fire and... Full story

  • What to know about smoke and health this summer

    Keely Larson, Montana Free Press|Jul 27, 2022

    When wildfire smoke billows from its source and lingers in the air, the haze brings coughs and questions for many Montana residents. Among them: How should I interpret air quality ratings? How does smoke affect my indoor air quality? Is it safe to walk my dog or head out for a hike today? Montana Free Press put those questions and others to public health officials and researchers. While the answers are sometimes tricky to navigate - and leave plenty of space for personal choice - the bottom... Full story