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Missoula organization offering online mental health services during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 7:01 PM, Sep 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 12:05:51-04

MISSOULA — All Nations Health Center in Missoula is continuing to offer up mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic despite having to change its platform entirely to digital.

"All the way back in March our orginization closed on [a] Friday evening, expecting to come back to business as usual but that didnt happen," said All Nations Health Center's executive director D'Shane Barnett.

"We serve the Native American population living in and around Missoula and we already have a suicide rate that’s higher than the general population and we can't afford to let that rate go any higher," he added.

The health center then looked at what they could do without offering in person services.

"Offering our services in an online format is super beneficial to all of our clients," explained All Nations Health Center Director of Missoula Native Connections Dr. Ann Douglas.

The online format has had some unexpected benefits, making the online move more effective.

"Anywhere that is safe and comfortable for them to take time and talk to a therapist our services are now available instead of having to have them come to the clinic," Barnett explained. "Therapy gets to take place in whatever setting is going to work best for them."

With the online format working so well, Dr. Douglas sees the online format being applicable in the future, "I do think it will stick around and I think it will just be incorporated with our behavioral mental health services."

She added that it takes a resilient and flexible staff to make this kind of change work.

Dr. Douglas noted that the services are offered to anyone who uses the All Nations Health Center, "so, our behavioral health services is open to anybody and everybody. So we meet with clients as young as five. Five to elders.

Barnett and Douglas also say that one of the biggest obstacles is getting working wifi out to the people who need these services.