Missoula Seeing ‘Huge Influx’ of Mental Illness Commitment Cases After State Cuts
On Wednesday, many Missoula County Departments will be discussing the impact of recent budget cuts on their ability to serve the public. County Attorney Kirsten Pabst says she will be discussing at least two major set-backs.
"Our trial expenses, the program that used to reimburse us for expert witnesses, transcripts, witness fees and things like that have basically been gutted," said Pabst. "We are scrambling now to try and fill that gap and to be able to adequately respond to crime in the community by getting convictions at jury trials. We often need expert testimonies to do that."
The other set-back is one that mental health providers have already expressed concern over, but now appears to be reverberating in the criminal justice system.
"We have already started to see a huge influx in the number of commitment cases that we have to file the petition for involuntary commitment," Pabst said. "Often we see that the case management is the key critical piece that keeps people struggling with mental illness from lapsing into being unable to care for themselves or becoming a threat to themselves. That is a huge concern for our office."
Pabst expects the problem to get worse. Many of the cuts Missoula is dealing with are fallout from state budget revenues not hitting projections. A special legislative session was called to address the issue, and has since devolved into a blame-game between the legislative and executive branches.