News / The Montana Gap


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  • Glacier Park scientist talks climate change in mountain ecosystems

    Jackie Bussjaeger, This is Montana Editor|Jul 16, 2020

    Over his 29 years working in Glacier National Park, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research ecologist Dan Fagre has seen a lot of changes. Even as the pressures of climate change encroach upon this mountain region, Fagre and other scientists see boundless opportunities for research and education. Fagre and other members of the USGS Climate Change and Mountain Ecosystems (CCME) Program focus on alpine climatology, snowpack, snow avalanches, alpine vegetation, and glaciers for most of their...

  • Learning mental health first aid could save many lives

    James S. Rosien, The Anaconda Leader|Dec 6, 2018

    For many Montanans who are experiencing feelings of self-harm, their friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, favorite baristas or even the stranger they just met on the street corner may be their first and only line of defense against suicide. Yet while the man or woman on the street may not have the formal education of a therapist, there are tools they can use to help prevent the next suicide – and organizations like Pintler Suicide Awareness and Prevention (PSAP) exist to help people l...

  • Teamwork promises to help improve mental health care

    John Blodget, The Western News|Oct 25, 2018

    Last week: Part 1 discussed the closure of Western Montana Mental Health Center in Libby, how the behavior health network was built and how mental health crises were averted. Assessing the early results Overall, Lincoln County's behavioral health network Manager Amy Fantozzi said there have been fewer roadblocks and obstacles than expected in responding to Western Montana Mental Health Center's closure. "Things are going well for the most part," she said. From the start of March to the end of...

  • Teamwork promises to help improve mental health care

    John Blodget, The Western News|Oct 18, 2018

    When someone suffering a mental health crisis arrived in the emergency room at Cabinet Peaks Medical Center in Libby, staff there often called Western Montana Mental Health Center, which would send a mental health professional to evaluate the case and determine a course of action. But that practice ended at the start of 2018, following the Missoula-based center's announcement that it would close its offices in Libby and Dillon. The reason: steep budget cuts made in Montana's special legislative...

  • YAM teaches basic mental health hygiene to ninth graders

    Melody Martinsen, Choteau Acantha editor|Oct 4, 2018

    Retired Browning educator Larry Woolf spent 11 years as a teacher and 15 as a guidance counselor in public schools on the Blackfeet Reservation. He has seen, again and again, the devastating pain of teenage suicide. "Working in the schools, I'd gone to enough funerals for kids," he said in an interview this spring. The pain of losing those young people motivated Woolf to become a trainer in a new mental health program for teenagers - a program he hopes will sharply reduce the rate of teenage...

  • Helping the Navajo find health: Community health workers in action

    Alex Sakariassen, Missoula Independent|Sep 27, 2018

    Two months ago, the boys played like children do, clambering around a ruined building just down the lush green hillside from their home. Now their mom, Moslene, cooks only for her husband, a mechanical act that brings her no joy. Only sadness and a remembrance of the innocent laughter she will never hear again. Her boys - her only children - are dead. A wall of that ruined building fell on them, killing them instantly. Moslene's house, a one-story, two-room concrete structure with a wrap-around...

  • An idea for Montana - State plan endorses community health workers

    Alex Sakariassen, Missoula Independent|Sep 20, 2018

    The Partners In Health, known in Haitian Creole as Zanmi Lasante(ZL/PIH), headquarters resides in a huge state-of-the-art hospital in Mirebalais, about a half-hour drive southwest of Cange. On what has become a typical morning there, hundreds of Haitians crowd onto wooden benches inside. More spill out of the entryways into the tropical sun. Some sleep on blankets or cardboard in the shade of bushes planted along the hospital's white walls. A young woman strolls toward the exit, a newborn in...

  • What is working abroad - Community health workers helping neighbors

    Alex Sakariassen, Missoula Independent|Sep 13, 2018

    As a child, Presandieu Charles suffered severe headaches and stomach pains. One day he beat his mother on the foot and thigh with a stick and later cried when he saw what he had done. In October 2017, Charles began to hammer at the timber walls of his family's dirt-floored home with his fists. He would not stop. Neighbors bound his ankles and wrists with leather straps and metal chains. They called his affliction "the madness." He still has the scars: dark star-shaped marks on the skin on his ri...

  • Understanding the lifelong consequences of childhood trauma

    Kathi Beeks, Valley Journal|Sep 6, 2018

    There's a problem and we all have the solution. According to The Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University, "When adults have opportunities to build the core skills that are needed to be productive participants in the workforce and to provide stable, responsive environments for the children in their care, our economy will be stronger and the next generation of citizens, workers and parents will thrive." Individuals, communities and the nation have within their grasp information that...

  • Where the old folks go

    Erika Fredrickson, Missoula Independent|Aug 23, 2018

    After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1986, Bill Thomas started working as the medical director of a small nursing home in central New York. It was a run-of-the-mill institution, "depressing and dispiriting," he says. He was attending to an elderly resident's rash one day when she looked up at him and whispered, "I'm so lonely, doctor." Thomas says he had an epiphany. He realized the residents he was caring for seemed plagued less by medical issues than by boredom, loneliness and...

  • What gun shops can do to prevent suicide

    Zachariah Bryan, The Montana Standard|Aug 16, 2018

    By now, it's a story Ralph Demicco has told a thousand times: Over a period of six days in 2009, three people bought firearms from his gun shop in New Hampshire and shot and killed themselves in a matter of hours. When he heard the news, there was only one emotion. "I was shocked," he said. Demicco owned Riley's Gun Shop for over 40 years at the time. It was one of the largest, if not the largest in the state, for many years. He prided himself on his store policy: If a salesperson felt...

  • Montana lacks money to treat its most vulnerable residents

    Jan Anderson, Boulder Monitor|Aug 9, 2018

    Fran Sadowski has seen firsthand the dangers of limited options. During a study on services for "dually diagnosed" individuals with both developmental disabilities and mental illness, the CEO of Missoula Developmental Services Corporation shared the story of a 28-year-old client. The client was living in a community-based facility when he became seriously self-injurious. Because the state legislature had ordered the closure of the Montana Developmental Center in Boulder, there was no place for h...

  • Counties lacking mental health providers turn to technology

    Zachariah Bryan, Solutions Journalism Network|Aug 2, 2018

    When Mary Hutton first moved from Kansas to Eastern Montana over 10 years ago, she was at a loss. Living in Baker, a town of 2,000 about 12 miles from the North Dakota border, she had almost no access to mental health resources, not for her own post-traumatic stress disorder and not for her son's autism. "I moved up here and there's nothing," she said. "We had everything in Kansas." The closest services were in Miles City, an 80-mile trip that takes over an hour to drive. She said she made the...

  • Teenagers get involved in suicide prevention

    Karen Peterson, Valley Journal|Aug 2, 2018

    ARLEE – Lane Johnson, 17, dribbled a basketball down a concrete court in his hometown with the skill of a state champion and easily dropped the ball through the hoop. His skill developed after hours of practice and years of playing the game, and in that time, he never thought he would become a role model, but he welcomed the title. Johnson is a member of the Arlee Warrior basketball team who won the Montana Class C State Championship this year. As the top athletes in the state, the team r...

  • Peer Support, Increasingly Professionalized, Helps Struggling Montanans Reclaim Their Lives

    Eric Dietrich, Solutions Journalism Network|Jul 26, 2018

    There's some hope around a folding table here, inside this smallish Main Street storefront in Ronan, the Never Alone Recovery Center. Outside, it's a sunny Tuesday evening in this 2,000-person, majority-white town on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Inside, a mixed-race group of men and women, passing around a bowl of candy, shoot the breeze for a few minutes before settling down to business. "I'm an addict," each says in turn. "I'm an addict," echoes the group's leader, Don Roberts - and, he...

  • What is the Strategy?

    Katheryn Houghton and Eric Dietrich, Bozeman Daily Chronicle and Solutions Journalism Network|Jul 26, 2018

    Previously: In Part 1, the story of a mentally ill Livingston woman, "Sarah," underscored the challenges Montana's mental health system faces as community-level providers are rocked by political battles over public spending. In Part 2, we looked at how two of Montana's most recent budget fights have swung the state toward more health spending - and away from it again. Now: Given budget realities, does Montana have a plan for getting mentally ill citizens the care they need? Montana Department of...

  • Starting the Conversation – Offering a Glimmer of Hope

    Andi Bourne, Pathfinder|Jul 19, 2018

    SEELEY LAKE - When Seppa Francis was six years old, her father suffered a traumatic brain injury from a motorcycle accident. Francis and her younger brother blamed themselves for years and Francis's anger grew. Along with the emotional stress, the family experienced significant financial loss after the accident. Francis felt bullied in school and her younger brother watched as a classmate repeatedly bullied others with no lasting repercussions. While the family reached out for help through...

  • Chasing the Curve, Part 2 - The Budget Roller Coaster

    Katheryn Houghton and Eric Dietrich, Bozeman Daily Chronicle and Solutions Journalism Network|Jul 19, 2018

    Previously: The story of a mentally ill Livingston woman, "Sarah," underscored the challenges Montana's mental health system faces as community-level providers are rocked by political battles over public spending. Now: How two of Montana's most recent budget fights have swung the state toward more health spending - and away from it again. A pair of sweeping changes have rocked Montana's healthcare system, including mental health services, over the past two-and-a-half years - first state-level...

  • Exploring Solutions for a Successful Mental Health Care System

    Kate Schimel, Deputy editor-digital High Country News|Jul 12, 2018

    In late 2017, Montana legislators voted to substantially cut funding for mental health care, in response to a budget shortfall. Some of the effects on the state's mental health system were immediate: Mental health centers in Livingston, Libby and elsewhere closed or contracted, leaving many, especially in rural Montana, stranded without care. Other services may be lost or weakened over time. In the rural U.S., around 60 percent of residents already live in areas with a dearth of mental health pr...

  • What Happened to Sarah?

    Katheryn Houghton and Eric Dietrich, Bozeman Daily Chronicle and Solutions Journalism Network|Jul 12, 2018

    Sarah sat in her Livingston home with the front door locked and her eyes closed, picturing the path to Gallatin Mental Health Center in Bozeman for day treatment. It's 26 miles, across a pass, with strangers at the end of the trip - too far, for someone who struggled to imagine walking around the block. Her dark hair faded with grey lines, Sarah has dissociative disorder. That means she lives with episodes that steal reality, creating people who aren't there and stalling her sense of time. "I'm...

  • Connecting Colors and Community: Seeley Lake Addresses Student Resilience

    Zoie Koostra, Pathfinder|Jul 12, 2018

    SEELEY LAKE - Strings, anchors, balloons, the colors of the rainbow: To hear students and teachers talk about the Kaleidoscope Connect program's lessons sounds like listening to attendees of a New Age carnival. But to the seventh and eighth graders at Seeley Lake Elementary, each color and code word represents a concrete aspect of what each student needs in order to be resilient and healthy. Kaleidoscope Connect is a program Seeley Lake Elementary uses to help middle school-aged students build...

  • No Zoning Lets Entrepreneurs Thrive in East Missoula but for How Long?

    David Erickson, Missoulian|Apr 12, 2018

    MISSOULA - For Lee Bridges, a 35-year homeowner in East Missoula, and board member on the East Missoula Community Council, a big part of the path toward economic sustainability is for her community to come up with its own zoning designations. She'd rather see that happen through the county than find her town "cookie-cutter" zoned by the City of Missoula once East Missoula is likely annexed due to growth over the next decade. She says the cultural values and urban zoning codes of Missoula aren't...

  • Choteau Searches for Formula to Stop Loss of Population, Jobs and Students

    Melody Martinsen, Editor, Choteau Acantha|Mar 29, 2018

    CHOTEAU – "I'm really into formulas," says Choteau Area Port Authority board member Blair Patton. "People who are successful know the formula. You do not have a successful small community accidentally. There is a focused, purposeful action that leads into that." Patton returned to his family's ranch outside of Choteau after living many years in Lewistown. He operated a sports clothing and graphics business here, served on the Choteau City Council and now runs a lawn care service. He and his w...

  • Rural Communities Recruit Well Trained Foreign Workers for Hard to Fill Jobs

    LeAnne Kavanagh, Editor, Bank Pioneer Press|Mar 15, 2018

    Shelby Schools Superintendent Elliott Crump knows first-hand about the teacher shortage in Montana. The Montana Office of Public Instruction reported 638 full-time openings in the state's "difficult or hard to fill" teaching positions in 2016-17 and Crump's school district had four of them. When no qualified applicants from Montana–or anywhere else in the United States–applied for those jobs, he started looking outside the United States and ended up hiring four teachers from the Phi...

  • Why Some Young Professionals Settle in Small-town Montana

    Eric Dietrich|Mar 8, 2018

    For much of rural Montana, brain drain has been a fact of life for decades. Come high school graduation, the pattern goes, small towns see their most ambitious sons and daughters pack their bags, heading off to attend college or otherwise try out life somewhere else. And comparatively few of them ultimately come back. Take Anaconda, population 9,000, a former company town abandoned by its founding industry in the 80s. These days it faces a demographic gap, with only 22 percent of its residents...

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