Montana State University

MSU mental health research center to receive $500,000

December 11, 2014 -- MSU News Service

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The Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery at Montana State University will receive $500,000 to advance its research as part of a settlement reached by Montana Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana.

Established in October, the Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery at MSU is an interdisciplinary health and research center with the mission of improving the diagnosis and treatment of serious mental illness through collaborative efforts between neuroscientists, clinicians, engineers, people affected by mental illness, and their families.

The center’s work focuses on four areas: basic science, which will be focused on neural mechanisms underlying mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia; translational research, which will be focused on developing new neurotechnologies for diagnosis and treatment; clinical research, which will be focused on prevention, intervention and identifying populations at risk; and outreach, which includes soliciting information about mental health needs while also providing information about advances in diagnoses and treatment strategies.

The center is being established in collaboration with the National Alliance on Mental Illness for Montana, or NAMI Montana, as well as more than 20 MSU departments or colleges, and other offices and entities. One of those entities is MSU Extension, which is positioned to help share the center’s findings with the public. MSU Extension has a presence in all 56 Montana counties.

Matt Kuntz, executive director of NAMI Montana, said the settlement funds will help the center move forward with its mission.

“These funds are going to help turn the vision of a mental health research and recovery center into a reality,” he said. “We know that we need to bring top-notch research on mental health diagnosis and treatment to the state, and this is going to help make it happen.”

MSU President Waded Cruzado praised the efforts of Kuntz, Montana Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen and others for directing the settlement funds to the Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery.

“We’re very grateful to all of the efforts of Matt Kuntz, NAMI Montana and Commissioner Lindeen in making this a reality,” Cruzado said. “It’s a great partnership between government, non-profits and education.”

The $500,000 is part of $1 million Blue Cross Blue Shield Montana will pay in response to hundreds of customer complaints handled this year by the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, according to Lindeen.

The complaints against BCBS fell into a broad range of categories, including failing to calculate deductible payments or calculating such payments incorrectly, failing to process medical claims in a timely manner, failing to respond to Lindeen’s office when regulators attempted to resolve issues in early 2014, failing to record the payment of customers’ monthly bills and failing to provide customers with needed documents, including insurance cards.

An additional $500,000 will go to the Montana general fund, or treasury, as an administrative penalty payment. 

Contact: Tracy Ellig, MSU executive director of University Communications, (406) 994-5607 or tellig@montana.edu; Frances Lefcort, interim director, Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery, (406) 994-5656 or lefcort@montana.edu; or Matt Kuntz, executive director, NAMI Montana, (406) 461-4352

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