Governor Steve Bullock today announced a $378,000 suicide prevention grant awarded to Montana State University to launch a new suicide prevention technology tool and to implement an evidence-based school prevention program.
“I’m pleased to see Montana State University join other schools, emergency departments, and local community and public health organizations across the state in finding ways to provide support and save lives,” Bullock said. “This is one of the most difficult issues to wrap our arms around, but by working together and with continued perseverance, we can make a real difference.”
The Montana State University Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery (CMHRR) was awarded $221,000 to evaluate online cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) statewide and a $157,000 grant to implement the Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM) program within the Great Falls School District.
Governor Bullock included in his 2017 budget and the Legislature passed HB 118, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, to provide $1 million for suicide prevention in Montana. A total of $750,000 was allocated for schools and community organizations to implement evidence-based suicide prevention programs. A total of $250,000 is dedicated to the continued implementation of the Montana Native Youth Suicide Reduction Strategic Plan.
CMHRR plans to launch a Montana-specific CBT program, led by Mark Schure, Ph.D., to help 1,000 people ages 18 and older suffering from depressive symptoms.
With increased Internet accessibility, computerized CBT has emerged as a viable intervention for depressive symptoms, and is especially valuable to those in rural Montana who have limited mental health treatment options due to workforce shortages. “This is a tool that really adapts well to rural Montana,” Schure said. “We’re eager to put this technology into motion in our state.”
MSU researchers launched a Montana-specific CBT pilot project in 2017 that has shown great promise in reducing depressive and anxiety symptoms in adults with depressive symptoms. The Montana-specific version of CBT is a sophisticated interactive digital program using a large video format platform intended to enhance engagement. It has the capacity to reach and help individuals in every Montana county who are suffering from depressive symptoms, which can increase thoughts of suicide and risk of suicidal behaviors.
Matt Kuntz of NAMI-Montana said CBT helps teach people skills that are necessary to deal with depression and anxiety before those conditions escalate into a crisis.
“CMHRR has devoted significant resources into studying the effectiveness of online cognitive behavior therapy, and they now have a Montana-specific program ready to launch, so the timing is perfect,” Kuntz said. “This is an incredible, easy-to-access tool that we know works and will be available across the state for those who desperately need help.”
State of Montana Adjutant General Matthew T. Quinn said CBT has great potential.
“The format and approach CBT provides will be very appealing to veterans and current service members, especially those who may have trouble working traditional care into their 9 to 5 schedules, or otherwise face treatment access barriers,” Quinn said.
YAM is a universal evidence-based mental health promotion program for 14 to 16-year-olds. In 2016, MSU launched a pilot study testing the feasibility and acceptability of a Montana-adapted YAM program. Matt Byerly, M.D., Director of the MSU CMHRR, and the YAM developers trained 12 YAM facilitators who delivered the evidence-based suicide prevention intervention to 1,387 students in eight diverse Montana schools during the 2016-2017 school year. In addition to positive outcomes on factors related to suicide, the pilot study showed the feasibility of implementing YAM with high fidelity in a variety of school contexts: urban, rural, and tribal.
DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said with the MSU announcement, all the HB 118 funding has been released. She said the funding touches all American Indian Reservations and four Urbans, and nearly every county in the state stands to benefit.
“There is still plenty of work ahead, but I believe we’re on the right track,” she said. “There is a movement under way in Montana to address this issue, and our agency is proud to be a part of it. I’m hopeful that once these efforts are fully implemented, we’ll be able to prevent future tragedies.”
In February, Bullock announced $372,000 in grant awards to Montana community organizations, health care providers, and schools to expand current or launch new evidence-based suicide prevention programs.
Billings Clinic received $107,000 to implement a community-based suicide detection and prevention program in 11 eastern Montana Critical Access Hospital emergency departments (EDs). Other grant awards went to local county health departments, schools and other organizations all across Montana.
Hogan said DPHHS will collect information at the end of the biennium from each grant recipient to help understand the effectiveness of each program in decreasing the suicide rate in their community or region of the state.