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State funds distributed to organizations working to address Montana's suicide crisis

Suicidal thoughts are common in teenagers, and suicide is the second highest cause of death, after car crashes and other unintentional injuries.
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Suicidal thoughts are common in teenagers, and suicide is the second highest cause of death, after car crashes and other unintentional injuries.

The state of Montana distributed funds last week to four organizations involved with suicide prevention efforts.

House Bill 118, which passed in 2017, established a general fund that distributes a total of $500,000 each year to programs for suicide prevention.

One of the organizations receiving funding is the Rural Behavioral Health Institute, a nonprofit that offers mental health screenings for 6th-12th grade students.

“This method addresses to the biggest challenges for reducing youth suicide, which is identifying kids who are struggling with suicidality, and getting them to care very rapidly,” said executive director Janet Lindow. “And so the state funding pays for the suicide risk screener.”

The Tamarack Grief Resource Center provides support for people affected by suicide across Montana through in-person and virtual events. The center’s executive director Christine Barrack says funding helps make their programs more accessible statewide.

“We're committed to grief support and education,” she said. “And because suicide rates have been so high in our state for decades, suicide post-vention, or supporting survivors after death by suicide is enormous part of the work that we do.”

Other funding recipients for this year are RiverStone Health in Billings and Lewis & Clark County.

RiverStone Health spokeswoman Barbara Schneeman says the organization is using House Bill 118 funding to shore up ongoing suicide prevention efforts through collaborations with other groups, including Horses Spirits Healing, Native American Development Corporation, and the LGBTQ Coalition.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 800-273-8255.

Ellis Juhlin is YPR's Statehouse reporter based in Helena.