Montana has one of the highest rates of suicide in the United States, and the numbers are sadly even higher within Montana’s Native America communities. This is in large part to due to Montana’s easy access to guns and lack of mental health care.
On Tuesday, Governor Bullock awarded $372,000 in grant money to nine community organizations, health care providers, and schools to fund suicide prevention efforts. The money will help expand existing programs and launch new prevention efforts.
“Governor Steve Bullock announced the grant awards at Stillwater Billings Clinic in Columbus. Bullock said he wants Montana to be a leader in so many areas, but not for suicide. Montana’s suicide rate has been at or near the top in the nation for nearly 4 decades.
“The problem is these are not just statistics and we should never blind ourselves to that. These are real people,” Bullock said, “People of all ages, in all parts of Montana, family members, loved ones, neighbors and students. Suicide has broken the hearts of so many on reservations.”
He said Montana is fortunate to have so many passionate and talented professionals working on this issue.
One of the grants was awarded to Billings Clinic. The Billings-based hospital will spread its $107,000 award from the state among its 11 affiliated Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) across Eastern Montana.
• Beartooth Billings Clinic in Red Lodge
• Stillwater Billings Clinic in Columbus
• Livingston Healthcare
• Central Montana Medical Center in Lewistown
• Wheatland Memorial Healthcare in Harlowton
• Glendive Medical Center
• Sheridan Memorial Hospital in Plentywood
• Daniels Memorial Hospital in Scobey
• Roundup Memorial Hospital
• Pioneer Medical Center in Big Timber
• Colstrip Medical Center.”
Governor Bullock was joined at the event in Columbus with healthcare professionals from across Montana and world-renowned Billings psychiatrist Dr. Eric Arzubi:
“Dr. Eric Arzubi is a child and adolescent psychiatric and heads the Department of Psychiatry at Billings Clinic. He says the funding will standardize suicide screening across its network through the use of an app developed by the University of Vermont.
Billings has tested this electronic screening tool that replicates the judgment of a skilled psychiatrist in screening a patient with suicidal ideation.
“We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing the last 40 years because we’ll keep getting the same results,” says Dr. Arzubi. “So one of the things we’re trying to do is think outside the box, using evidence based approaches but thinking outside the box and doing things differently.”
Emergency department personnel at Billings Clinic’s 11 CAH’s will screen every adult patient, 18 and older. Those patients who score moderate or high for likelihood of suicide will be referred for appropriate care.
He expects 20,000 people will be screened over the next year.
During the 2017 Legislative Session, Governor Bullock secured $1 million dollars from the state budget to address suicide in Montana. House Bill 2 appropriated funds to the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and House Bill 118 directed how the grant money should be used.
$500,000 of this grant money is directed towards groups or communities for suicide prevention efforts, including veteran assistance. Additionally, $250,000 in grants goes directly to implement the Native American Youth Suicide reduction plan, and $250,000 is available for school-based suicide prevention activities.
“With this additional support for ongoing efforts and for new, innovative solutions proven to be effective, I’m confident we are moving in the right direction and that we can prevent future tragedies,” said Bullock.
Increasing access to care, minimizing the stigma of seeking mental health care, educating healthcare professionals about the risks factors, and public awareness are all part of the overall effort to reduce suicides in Montana.
Today, Governor Bullock shared on Facebook the Arlee Boys Basketball Team’s inspirational video about dedicating their State Tournament play towards preventing Native American and Youth Suicide in Montana.
Bullock said this in his post about the Arlee Warrior’s video:
“These youth have a powerful message about how we can and should treat others. As leaders, we need to act like our kids are watching, but we should also be learning from them as well. #WarriorMovement
A powerful message from these students, many of who aren’t even able to vote yet. But, that is the sign of the times we live in. While some adults and elected leaders stand by—unwilling to do the right thing for their people—our students and youth across the nation are standing up and saying, “Enough is Enough.”
With all the cuts the elected Republicans forced upon DPHHS, it is nice to see that the Governor and students across Montana are standing up for Montanans in need. Suicide in Montana is a public health crisis, and Governor Bullock recognizes the need for community efforts and state resources to help solve this problem.
Below is a full list of the grant recipients:
• Billings Clinic received $107,000 to implement a community-based suicide detection and prevention program in 11 eastern Montana Critical Access Hospital emergency departments.
• Flathead City-County Health Department received $63,000 to implement several suicide prevention efforts including training on the Question, Persuade, Refer program, mental health first aid, and an introduction to ACEs training.
• The District II Alcohol and Drug Prevention Program (Glendive/Sidney) received $63,000 to implement the STEP UP program (Strategies and Tools Embrace Prevention with Upstream Programs). The program is an evidence-based program for middle-school students aimed to promoting positive mental health, building emotional competence, and a safe school climate. The counties to be served include Blaine, Philips, Daniels, Sheridan, Garfield, Roosevelt, Richland, McCone, Prairie, Wibaux and Dawson.
• Tamarack Grief Resource Center (TGRC) received $47,000 to coordinate/facilitate suicide prevention activities for schools, businesses, community organizations, trauma survivors, and Veteran populations throughout the region integrating prevention training and suicide postvention support. Community suicide prevention workshops utilizing the Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) program will be offered at no cost to participants. This funding will also help TGRC provide support for suicide loss survivors, train educators and care providers on postvention best practices, and facilitate school-based activities including SOS (Signs of Suicide) throughout western Montana including Browning, Heart Butte, Arlee, and Columbia Falls.
• Missoula County Public Schools received $41,000 to implement the PAX Good Behavior Game to kindergarten, 1st and 2nd-grade students in selected Missoula County Public School District’s elementary schools.
• RiverStone Health received $20,000 to train elementary school teachers and administrators in Yellowstone, Wibaux, and Carbon counties on the PAX Good Behavior Game.
• Helena School District to receive $15,000 to implement the PAX Good Behavior Game.
• Jefferson County School District received $15,000 to implement the PAX Good Behavior Game in all first, second, and third-grade classrooms.
Lockwood School District to receive $1000 in funds to implement several evidence-based programs, including Riding the Waves program for 4th Graders; Look, Listen, Link curriculum for 5th graders and the Signs of Suicide (SOS) program for 6th-8th graders.