BILLINGS — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) firmly believes youths are the foundation of Montana’s future. The company backed that conviction with a $50,000 Healthy Kids, Healthy Families grant to help Skyview High School develop a trauma-sensitive learning environment that bolsters mental health and success.
The model is based on research showing that traumatic experiences in children’s lives may profoundly affect their success and behavior in school. In a trauma-invested school, the teachers, administrators and parents have the training and tools to support these students.
Skyview and the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools intend to “become the trauma-invested high school that others around Montana and around the nation turn to for guidance and support.” School officials identified five goals in their grant proposal:
- Increase Skyview staff’s understanding of trauma and its impact on student success by providing schoolwide training.
- Develop a Stress Management and Resiliency Training (SMART) lab that would help students, staff and parents develop skills in de-escalation, stress management and emotional management to improve learning at school and at home.
- Create a team to review absences, failing grades, behavior issues, substance abuse and SOS suicide survey results for up to 140 students with high-risk factors and develop assistance plans.
- Educate parents, students and the surrounding community on trauma, its impact on student learning and the importance of resiliency.
- Provide opportunities for staff to attend related conferences or visit other high schools working on similar approaches to identify the most viable interventions.
“This is an incredibly exciting and ambitious project we are proud to support,” said Jesse Zentz, BCBSMT’s manager of community relations. “Trauma and stress hinder learning and negatively affect mental and physical health. It’s important to equip educators, students and parents with the proper training to identify trauma and address its consequences."
The project promises to benefit a large population — Skyview has a student population of 1,681 and employs 141 staff. The school’s data suggests 739 of those students are dealing with some form of childhood trauma.
Compared with their peers at other high schools in Billings and throughout Montana, Skyview students have reported higher rates of attempted suicide, vaping, regular alcohol use and binge-drinking, and drug use.
HKHF is a signature program of BCBSMT and part of an ongoing commitment to invest in and partner with like-minded nonprofit organizations that offer sustainable, measurable programs to reach children and their families in the five following areas: nutrition, physical activity, disease prevention and management, substance abuse prevention, and suicide prevention. The $50,000 HKHF grant is one of four BCBSMT awards each year.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) is a division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BCBSMT is the largest and longest-standing statewide, customer-owned health insurer and full-service health benefits administrator in Montana. BCBSMT believes that Montana consumers and employers deserve the best of both worlds — access to quality, cost-effective health care and superior customer service from a company that focuses solely on members. BCBSMT has provided high-quality health insurance plans and administrative services to Montanans for nearly 80 years. BCBSMT is committed to ensuring its members — no matter where they are on the health spectrum — achieve maximum health. BCBSMT’s mission is to stand with its members in sickness and in health. BCBSMT’s website is www.bcbsmt.com.
About the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools
The Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools believes that all students in Billings Public Schools deserve a rigorous, well-rounded education to prepare them for successful careers. To that end, the Education Foundation has worked diligently since 1988 to enhance the educational opportunities available to students in the district. The mission of the Education Foundation is to promote excellence in education by providing opportunities and resources to Billings public school students. The vision of the Education Foundation is to make a positive impact on the education of Billings public school students and to strengthen the Billings community through its programs. The Foundation’s website is www.efbps.org. Billings Public School’s website is www.billingsschools.org.