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Montana DPHHS expanding mental health resources during coronavirus response

Posted at 6:32 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 20:50:53-04

Montana health leaders say they are taking steps to make sure people who need mental health support can get the services they need during the response to coronavirus.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services says, since the COVID-19 outbreak reached the state, they have seen a dramatic increase in the volume of calls to services like the Montana Warmline and the Montana Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Zoe Barnard, administrator of DPHHS’ Addictive and Mental Disorders Division, said the Warmline typically sees 250 to 325 calls in a month, but has had that many in the last 2½ weeks. She said the Lifeline averaged 18 calls a day in 2019, but 39 calls a day between March 13 and March 31.

“If people are feeling isolated or fearful or they just simply are scared about what’s going on, one of the best things that we can do is reach out to another person,” she said. “No one should feel ashamed about reaching out and asking for help.”

The Warmline is a service operated by Mental Health America of Montana, with financial support from DPHHS. It is similar to a drop-in center, connecting callers with people who have lived experience and can understand their behavioral health needs.
“It’s a resource for people who just want someone to talk to,” said Barnard.

The Warmline has typically operated only during the day and on weekdays. Since the jump in calls related to COVID-19, the hours have been extended to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday and 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. DPHHS has provided an additional $20,000 to support more staffing.

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is staffed 24 hours a day and seven days a week, already saw a more than 40% increase in calls from 2018 to 2019. DPHHS added more capacity last year to support that demand, and they are now adding another $75,000.

“DPHHS is doing everything that we possibly can during the current situation to roll out whatever resources we think might be of help to folks,” Barnard said. “This is one of the resources that we have seen be of help, and so we’re trying to make sure that it’s available for anyone who might need it.”

DPHHS is also giving an additional $25,000 to Thrive by Waypoint Health, an online behavioral therapy program for people dealing with anxiety and stress.

You can contact the Montana Warmline by calling 1 (877) 688-3377 or at montanawarmline.org .

You can call the Montana Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK, or 1 (800) 273-8255. You can also contact the Montana Crisis Text Line by texting “MT” to 741741.