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Montana view: State deserves praise for expanded mental-health services

Montana view: State deserves praise for expanded mental-health services

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During this time of COVID-19 crisis, it seems like there's no aspect of life in Montana not touched by pandemic.

To be sure, the state is doing as much as it can. For example, school teachers are becoming remote teaching specialists, along with parents' help. The state has gotten extensions and waivers for testing and scores. In another example, the state is sending Montana Army National Guard to help. We could take the rest of this space in today's editorial to list all the ways different state agencies are responding to the crisis and still not scratch the surface of what's happening.

That's an editorial for a different day.

But, it's a good reminder that the rallying cries of folks wanting government to get out of their lives have almost completely disappeared — gone the way of toilet paper. It seems like government can't do enough to help hurting communities.

We applaud so many aspects of our government from our law enforcement officers who respond to every call. We think Gov. Steve Bullock is doing as much as he can to balance the needs of Montana's economy with the necessity of public health.

One thing that hasn't been forgotten is the need for more mental health resources. We're so pleased that the state has seen the surge in mental health calls and responded so quickly and decisively.

A state-funded phone line that helps those in crisis with support will be expanding its services during this time. The line has expanded its hours and the days, and the health department, led by director Sheila Hogan, has allocated more than $100,000 in additional funding to the resources.

In a report by Lee Enterprises' Holly K. Michels, the state said the Montana Suicide Prevention Lifeline had already seen a 43% increase in the past year. We can't imagine the stress and isolation of COVID-19 has helped decrease those numbers, and we guess the increase will continue through 2020.

We're glad the state has recognized that, in addition to economic stress and the need to keep people isolated, there would be a corresponding increase in mental distress. We're relieved that public officials who have been running at-capacity have not forgotten this critical aspect.

The additional resources weren't just added to the suicide hotline, though. The state also added more money to online cognitive behavioral therapy which targets people dealing with stress and anxiety. Funding to these programs will mean that folks can gain powerful and effective stress-relieving tools so that their own mental health problems don't escalate.

Again, the state continues to report that calls to Montana Crisis Text Line has seen an increase of more than 100 percent in the past two years. We believe that the current stress will probably continue to drive those numbers higher and we're glad funding is in place.

We salute Hogan and the Department of Health and Human Services for recognizing this increase and the critical need for mental health during this time of crisis.

Once again here are those resources:

Montana Warmline


8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Friday; Noon to 9 p.m, weekends

Service is free and confidential

Montana Suicide Prevention Lifeline


24-hours-a-day; seven days a week

Service is free and confidential

Montana Crisis Text Line

Text "MT" to 741741

The Billings Gazette


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