Grants boost suicide prevention programs

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Flathead-area mental and community health organizations are set to step up their fight against suicide thanks to a new round of state funding to expand services.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced $372,000 in grants Wednesday to go to nine community health organizations and schools across the state, including the Flathead City-County Health Department and the Tamarack Grief Resource Center. The funding will help expand and implement evidence-based suicide prevention programs.

In his announcement, Bullock pointed the prevalence of mental health issues, especially suicide, in Montana. “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,” he said.

The Flathead City-County Health Department will receive $63,000 to develop more robust suicide prevention outreach, expand first-aid training and implement better trauma-informed care.

Flathead City-County Public Health Officer Hillary Hanson noted that a major project will be partnering with local businesses and preparing toolkits so they can have a guide for trauma-based care once the funding ends in 2019.

“This funding will allow us to put staff time behind what we know is a priority health issue in the county and our goal is to use the funding to develop sustainable projects that can continue once the funding ends,” Hanson said.

Additionally, the new funding and partnership with local businesses will specifically target a group known as “men in the middle years” — men between the ages of 35 and 64 who are especially vulnerable to depression and suicide. The new trauma-informed care plans, she said, are “us reviewing the data, seeing the trends in the area and committing resources to target that population.”

Another $47,000 will go to the Tamarack Grief Resource Center. The Missoula-based provider, which has an office in Kalispell and works in the Flathead, will use the funding to expand outreach to more schools and community centers, especially in rural areas.

The funding would support Missoula, Kalispell, Browning, Heart Butte and Columbia Falls.

“The goal is to reach as many Montanans as possible, especially rural Montanans,” said Liz Manley, Tamarack’s development director.

Manley said Tamarack plans to bring its suicide prevention training programs in K-12 schools throughout the area, such as in Arlee and Polson. Their expanded community workshops would be free of charge to participants.

“Our goal is to provide care to all those who might need it regardless of pay, and this funding provides for that,” Manley said.

“This funding truly allows us to extend our reach beyond just the communities (where we have offices) and basically just extend the programs that we’re offering but reach many more individuals throughout Montana and western Montana in particular.”

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