The other weekend, four Forward Montana Foundation staffers attended Montana Women Vote‘s Women’s Policy Leadership Institute in Helena–and we learned A LOT that we can’t wait to take back to our own organizing.

Here are our hot takes from the weekend:

1. As a result of Medicaid expansion, 7,643 women received breast cancer screenings, with 107 diagnosed as a result. (Sarah)

2. 42% more people received mental health care services as a result of Medicaid expansion. (Sarah)

3. Medicaid expansion strengthens rural health care and allows Native Americans to choose where to access health care. (Sarah)

4. 2/3 of of people in our jails are there for nonviolent offenses and the main reason our jails are populated are through the bail industry, i.e. TONS of people sitting in jail without conviction. This matters because when someone sits in jail for 48-72+ hours, they are 47% more likely to commit a crime again and end up back in jail BECAUSE being in jail for 48+ hours means they are likely losing their jobs, losing custody of their kids, etc. (Erin)

5. A majority of the reason why people go in and out of our jails is because they get caught in what’s called a ‘debters’ prison’ where they are unable to pay the multitude of court fees and fines, plus driver’s license suspension fees. (Erin)

6. When elections come around, it’s important to elect a Justice of the Peace that knows their job is to keep people out of jail! Also, that HB 217 should pass because it would eliminate fees from driver’s license suspension. (Erin)

7. Food sovereignty and food issues intersect with every aspect of our daily lives and political surroundings! I LOVED hearing Rose Bear Don’t Walk from the University of Montana talk about the work she’s doing to revitalize and educate about Salish food traditions. We talked about ways we can own and affect our food systems at local, state and national levels and brainstormed ideas, from reducing food waste in our own homes to campaigning for more diversity in setting national nutrition standards. (Margaret)

8. Food sovereignty issues and language revitalization are completely entwined in indigenous communities. Preserving language also preserves a community’s connection to the landscape and centuries of indigenous knowledge about the natural world and food! (Margaret)

9. EDIBLE PLANTS Y’ALL. Catch me in the mountains this spring searching for wild onions. (Margaret)

Hustle on over to our friends at Montana Women Vote’s website to learn more about WPLI and some of the dope legislative & voter engagement work they are doing this session!