Aug. 5, 2019
Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

Public Assistance Helpline to transition to new phone system

Key dates to remember:
Helpline will be temporarily unavailable Aug. 7-8
Resume operations at 8:30 a.m., Friday, Aug. 9

Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) officials announced today the agency will be transitioning its Public Assistance Helpline (1-888-706-1535) to a new phone system beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 9.

During the transition, the Helpline will be temporarily unavailable from August 7 – 8. The Helpline number will remain the same.

The popular Public Assistance Helpline was launched in 2015 and is staffed by knowledgeable eligibility workers for clients to call and receive assistance.

DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said she appreciates the public’s patience during this process and apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause clients.

Hogan said by taking the Helpline offline for a few days, it will allow for a much smoother transition to the new system on Aug. 9. Staff will use this time to close out calls logged into the old system before launching the new system, and for staff training. So, some clients can expect to hear from OPA staff during this time.

Hogan said while the Helpline is very popular with clients; fortunately, there are other options available for Montanans to apply for SNAP food assistance, TANF cash assistance, or health coverage. She said this may be an opportunity for Montanans to consider opening an online account at apply.mt.gov.

There, Montanans can open an account and apply for, renew, report changes and check their benefits 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Clients can also visit their local Office of Public Assistance for in-person assistance. Here is a link to the Field Offices of Public Assistance https://dphhs.mt.gov/hcsd/OfficeofPublicAssistance

Other options for clients to submit applications is via the OPA fax number at 1-877-418-4533 and by mail at Field Offices of Public Assistance, PO Box 202925, Helena MT 59620.

Hogan said the new phone system also brings an exciting change.

"The new system will allow us to add call scheduling," Hogan said. "This new function will allow clients the opportunity to pre-schedule a specific time that is convenient for them to connect with an Office of Public Assistance employee."

This new feature will allow clients to schedule a call back at a time that is most convenient. Clients can call the Helpline and follow the prompts to schedule a call.

Various times will be provided, and the client just has to select the one that fits their schedule.

This new feature will be available beginning Aug. 9. This function was not previously available and will allow for a more efficient process for clients and staff to connect.

In addition to the new phone system, Montanans can now download the Bnft Mobile App from both the App Store and Google Play. This application provides real time available balances for SNAP and TANF benefits as well as transaction history, pin selection or change, store locator, ordering a replacement card, and other features.

"We are always looking for opportunities to better serve our clients, and this is one way we will be able to improve our ability to assist Montanans," Hogan said. The Helpline will still have the same functionality as before such as a call-back function where a caller can remain on the line until a staff person is available or a caller can request a scheduled call back.