Montana’s hydra-headed well being and human companies beat

Angelena Iglesia

Montana Free Press is taking an out-of-office vacation break Dec. 26-30. As a substitute of recent tales, we’ll be publishing MTFP editors’ and reporters’ appears again at their most impactful, fascinating, difficult, and simply plain favourite tales of the previous 12 months. At present is Mara Silvers’ flip.

I spent a lot of 2022 pulling on related threads as final 12 months — abortion politics, psychological well being care, habit remedy, public well being typically, LGBTQ+ social points, foster care reforms — however beneath the brand new title of well being and human companies reporter. If you happen to’ll allow me, now feels just like the time to publicly crow about how a lot I really like this beat. I’m studying concerning the well being care programs and social points that influence numerous Montanans, and I couldn’t be extra grateful for the sources who give me their time, share their experiences and lend me their perception. 

Protesters rally for abortion rights in entrance of the Missoula County Courthouse on June 26, 2022. Credit score: Mara Silvers / MTFP

On the abortion and reproductive well being care entrance, some issues actually occurred. The U.S. Supreme Court docket choice in Dobbs v. Jackson Girls’s Well being overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade choice, ending 50 years of federal protections for pre-viability abortions in America. The map of states the place abortion remained a authorized medical process started to flicker, however Montana remained lit up. We lined the protests, the planning of abortion suppliers, the methods of the state’s anti-abortion motion, and delivered an in-depth profile of how one impartial clinic was faring months later. 

We additionally continued monitoring the continued lawsuit between Deliberate Parenthood of Montana and the state, which originated in 2021 with a problem to the constitutionality of three abortion restrictions signed into regulation over the past Legislature. And we tried our darndest to clarify the origin, structure and ramifications of one other invoice that put Legislative Referendum 131 on voters’ poll this November. Montana voters ended up rejecting the ‘Born-Alive’ Toddler Safety Act, which had bupkis to do with abortion coverage however carried critical penalties for fogeys who delivered newborns with deadly medical situations, by a 5% margin.

Protesters on the road outdoors All Households Healthcare in August 2022. Credit score: Mara Silvers / MTFP

In different elements of my beat, the highlight continued to shine brightly on the Montana State Hospital in Heat Springs, which misplaced federal accreditation in April due to failing security and well being requirements. That disaster offered an amazing problem for the Gianforte administration in a 12 months marked by management adjustments within the state well being division and a rising reliance on a now practically $7 million contract with non-public consultants to proper the state’s behavioral well being ship. We’ll look ahead to protecting tabs on these points all through the following 12 months. 

Dr. Brad Holbrook, a maternal-fetal medication doctor in Missoula, speaks towards LR-131 on the state Capitol Constructing in Helena on October 27, 2022. Credit score: Mara Silvers/MTFP

This 12 months, Montana continued to see the domino impact of pandemic-era debates about public security and personal medical alternative. A number of lawsuits had been filed over Home Invoice 702, the Republican-sponsored measure that made it unlawful for Montana employers and nearly everybody else to discriminate on the idea of vaccination standing within the office and in public lodging. The authorized problem that made the most important splash was filed by an assortment of well being care suppliers and immunocompromised sufferers — they argued in federal district courtroom that vaccine necessities are important in well being care settings to forestall the unfold of infectious illness and defend the rights of disabled sufferers who wish to be handled by vaccinated employees. Federal Choose Donald W. Molloy determined this month that their arguments held up beneath the Structure and federal regulation, and struck down HB 702 in well being care settings. 

Someway, there’s nonetheless a lot else. Debates over spiritual exemptions to vaccines in childcare settings, a real authorized and bureaucratic dumpster fireplace over whether or not transgender Montanans can replace their delivery certificates to precisely mirror their gender id, an endlessly stunning struggle over the rainbow colour scheme within the new Montana State Library brand, and far, rather more. 

On Sept. 10, 2022, in Helena, Montana Ebook Co. house owners Chelsia Rice (proper) and Charlie Crawford (left) stand for a portrait with Julie Yard on the street in entrance of Montana Ebook Co. Yard is likely one of the members of the Mister Sisters drag trio who host youngsters’s story hours on the LGBTQ-owned bookstore wearing drag as larger-than-life characters. Credit score: Janie Osborne / The Guardian

I’d be remiss to not point out two tales I discovered significantly impactful this 12 months: a profile of Helena’s LGBTQ-owned Montana Ebook Firm that MTFP co-published with The Guardian, and a deep-dive into how the state desires to vary Medicaid guidelines for inpatient psychological well being and substance use dysfunction remedy. Perhaps these items finest clarify the breadth and depth of this beat — I’ve beloved digging into all its potential this 12 months.

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