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Billings City Council talks spending public safety levy, marijuana tax money

City Council Meeting
Posted at 9:49 PM, Sep 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-07 08:21:10-04

BILLINGS - The Billings City Council met Tuesday evening to discuss the growing problem of crime in Billings and how marijuana tax dollars and public-safety levy dollars can be a part of the solution.

Between additional money raised from the public-safety levy passed in November 2021 and the additional money from the city's portion of Yellowstone County's marijuana revenue tax, the expected boost to the budget is predicted to be about $865,000. The additional funds were originally designated for mental health and substance abuse programs.

A program called Nurse Family Partnership, or NFP, was pitched to the Council as a potential landing place for the additional funds. NFP's primary objective is to provide families with a nurse that can help change the culture in their home.

Shannon Hauck, supervisor for NFP, explained what the program hopes to accomplish.

“It’s an intensive approach that makes changes to provide a safe, stable and caring home. The partnership between a mom and a nurse is a winning combination that makes measurable, long-term differences for the whole family," said Hauck.

Eric Owen, RiverStone Health vice president of public health service,s discussed how the program can benefit families in Billings.

"How do we get people who are living in this cycle raising kids and that's the only way they know how to raise them out of that? And that’s where early childhood visitation services come in,” Owen said.

Bilings School Superintendent Greg Upham also backed the program, saying that there are many children in the community who would benefit.

“I just can’t think of anything better than a positive role model who has access to mental health and physical health resources available to them,” Upham said.

Council member Jennifer Owen, whose ward primarily includes the Heights, also voiced support for the funding going to this program, saying that it fits well with the issues the city of Billings is seeing.

“One of the reasons I really like Nurse Family Partnership is I believe it very specifically targets the very specific criminal issues we see in our community," Owen said.

While no decisions were made about the funding on Tuesday, the conversation has certainly begun. City Administrator Chris Kukulski said it is crucial to act quickly.

“I hope the state of Montana steps up and helps. I hope the federal government does, but if they don’t, I’m not prepared to sit here and say ‘I understand there’s a good solution but since other people won’t step up, we’re just going to look the other way," Kukulski said.