Montana is in a mental health crises. Our state is among the top-three suicide completion rates in the nation. Not only is the rural nature of our state isolating for some, but we also see a lack of access to crisis services at play.
That's where Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana has stepped in to address the challenge.
Divisional Vice President of External Affairs with BCBS of MT John Doran says the Montana Legislature incrementally increased Medicaid reimbursement rates, which is a good start to addressing the shortage of crisis services. Many private and nonprofit organizations are also filling the gap with education, outreach and programs that aim to break the stigma of mental illness.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana is one of those organizations. In 2016, BCBS of MT launched The Big Blue Sky Initiative aimed at three pillars: 1. education and awareness; 2. investing in the mental health treatment system; and 3. taking action in communities across Montana.
The Big Blue Sky Initiative has produced several educational and awareness campaigns, including a campaign created by teenagers to reduce bullying, as well as a #youmatter campaign encouraging Montanans to use the new federal mental health crisis hotline.
Through the Big Blue Sky Initiative, BCBS of MT has also contributed $250,000 to help found the state’s first-ever psychiatry residency program through the University of Washington and Billings Clinic, as well as funded a three-year pediatric mental health training for doctors!
BCBS of MT has also initiated a free mental health program for schools called Mental Wellness Basics. The program, established in partnership with EverFi, has been introduced in more than 100 schools and reached more than 7,000 students statewide to build resiliency, teach children how to recognize the signs of mental distress, and teach them coping skills and the knowledge of what to do when they recognize those signs in peers and themselves.
If you're interest, please visit bigblueskyinitiativemt.com for more.