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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, April 30, 2020

CONTACTS:
Marissa Perry, Communications Director, Governor’s Office, (406) 444-4514
Erin Loranger, Press Secretary, Governor’s Office, (406) 444-9725
Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936

 


Governor Bullock Recognizes Mental Health Providers for Donating PPE, Expanding Access to Services in Response to COVID-19

MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock today is recognizing the additional efforts of Montana’s mental health providers, who have donated personal protective equipment and are expanding access to mental health services in response to the increased mental health needs of Montanans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I continue to be humbled by the thoughtfulness, generosity and compassion of Montanans in response to COVID-19,” Governor Bullock said. “The myriad ways organizations and individuals have rallied to provide additional mental health services and general assistance to their friends and neighbors reminds me every day that we will get through this together.”

The National Alliance of Mental Illness-Montana (NAMI-MT) donated more than 14,000 protective masks to the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force, which have been distributed to medical providers statewide, including state-operated facilities that provide mental health services.

“We are honored to be able to play a small part in the State of Montana's response during this critical time,” NAMI-MT Executive Director Matt Kuntz said. “These efforts were made possible by the generous support of the Oro y Plata Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana.

Additionally, the Mental Health of America Montana Warmline is working with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) to provide additional assistance to meet increased mental health needs. The Warmline, which is a free, confidential service staffed by individuals with lived experience and understanding of behavioral health needs, normally receives 250 to 325 calls in a month, but has received more than 500 calls over the past month.

To respond to the needs of Montanans, the early-crisis intervention service increased its hours and will be taking calls from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday - Friday and from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Warmline also added a chat function to its website and created an online, peer-led anxiety support group.

“The peer support group went so well that we intend to continue it twice per day and it will be a new continuing resource,” said Shellie Aune, Executive Director of the Warmline. “And, the extended hours have been extremely helpful given the high number of increased calls.”

The Warmline is available at 877-688-3377 or montanawarmline.org.

DPHHS is also closely monitoring the number of calls being made to the Montana Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800- 273-TALK (8255). Daily calls to the Lifeline averaged 25 per day from March 1 to April 21, 2020 – an increase of about three calls per day from the same time frame in 2019.

“Calls to the Lifeline increased in March and have stayed at the same levels in April,” DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said. “We continue to monitor these numbers, and encourage Montanans to make the important lifesaving call and utilize this service as needed.”

Additionally, through the Montana Crisis Text Line, Montanans can receive a text response from a counselor within minutes for any behavioral health crisis by texting “MT” to 741741. The Text Line has been available since 2016 and Montanans have used this service with a 105 percent increase in number of texts over the past two years.

DPHHS is also partnering with Thrive by Waypoint, an online cognitive behavioral therapy for those actively working to manage anxiety and stress, to increase openings in the program. Thrive is operated through the Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery at Montana State University. A total of 258 individuals signed up for the program from April 8 to 27.

“We really want to thank all those around Montana who have stepped up to help their communities meet their mental health needs,” Hogan said. “People have spent a considerable amount of time, effort and made generous donations in order to help people through these challenging times.”

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