GREAT FALLS — Great Falls Emergency services is now better prepared to deal with someone experiencing a mental health crisis, as Alluvion Health donated 300 "crisis kits" to the organization on Thursday.
The crisis kits were created with money from a suicide prevention grant and developed based on recommendations from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). They include a variety of activity supplies, support tools, and resource information that could help individuals navigate a crisis.
The kits can be given to people to help calm them down and de-stress. They include ear plugs, coloring books, over-the-counter pain medicine, a stress relief toy, pen and paper, essential oils, and more.
"To me it looks like, as a community, we're really trying to kind of gather the troops and make a team effort. Emergency services does one part, Alluvion Health does another part ,and that community collaboration is just really important to us,” explained Louise Krebs, Alluvion EMS Care Coordinator.
The arrival of crisis kits at Great Falls Emergency Services Thursday morning was not a moment too soon. GFES has responded to about 700 calls so far this year - about 10 percent of all calls - for people at risk of taking their own life. That's about the same as 2020, meaning while the problem may not be getting worse, it also is not getting better. In 2019, the most recent year for which the CDC has data available, the Treasure State had the third-highest suicide rate. Wyoming was number one, followed by Alaska.
The kits are part of a grant Alluvion Health and Great Falls Emergency Services have been using for about a year specifically to help reduce suicides.
"This supply of suicide prevention kits I could see being extremely valuable,” said Justin Grohs, GFES General Manager.
He continued, "Probably the main purpose of the grant was to payroll both a community paramedic full-time and a mental health expert to work together to develop various projects for the community to minimize suicidal issues. This grant also subsidized providing additional training to our field personnel on mental health first aid."
GFES is the first organization in the state to have these kits from Alluvion.
"The suicide prevention initiative is important to us because we see the need for good behavioral health services. I think that there's a lot of gaps in the community and I'm hoping that this partnership kind of helps start to fill that gap. That was kind of the intention of this program; to see what was needed, where it was needed the most and how we can fill that gap,” said Krebs
While the grant that made the kits possible was about to expire, GFES anticipated renewing it because it had been so productive.
Alluvion Health said in a news release:
The need for crisis kits was identified through a partnership between GFES and Alluvion Health, who have been working together via a suicide prevention grant to better assist suicidal individuals encountered during ambulance responses.
It was identified that individuals who may be a suicide risk were not always receiving a depression assessment. While not all individuals may be suicidal in the moment, this team works to identify those who may need additional assistance. One way to assist those individuals is to provide a crisis kit for help them navigate a future crisis.
“Leaving people with a resource that they can go back to after they receive support is incredibly valuable” says Dusti Zimmer, Alluvion Health Chief Clinical Operations Officer. “The crisis kit gives the patient the ability to utilize the tools themselves or to reach out for support on how to use the tools for the most success.“
For more information about suicide in Montana, click here.
If you or a loved one are having thoughts of suicide, contact the Montana Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; you can also text MT to 741741. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
NOTE: If you are experiencing an emergency (immediate danger of harm to self or others), please call 911.