HELENA — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana recently awarded four deserving nonprofits with a $70,000 Big Blue Sky InitiativeSM major grant through the Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® program. All four grant recipients will use the funds to help improve pediatric behavioral health.
“All four grant award winners are deserving and we’re proud to be a partner in their efforts to address pediatric mental and behavioral health issues,” said John Doran, BCBSMT divisional vice president of external affairs. “Children across the state continue to face challenges and these four organizations are doing impactful work to bring services to our most vulnerable populations, destigmatize mental illness, and reduce suicide rates.”
Friends of Montana PBS: The project supports Montana PBS in its mission is to raise awareness and reduce stigma associated with mental illness, especially among youth. The first step brought the Ken Burns documentary Hiding in Plain Sight to Billings and Livingston, along with keynote speaker Kee Dunning. The film was shown June 27 and 28, and workshops for teachers followed. There are additional resources available and the Montana State University system is considering showing the documentary later this year.
Kalispell Regional Healthcare Foundation: The grant will support Montana Pediatrics efforts to address two primary challenges concerning health care delivery: limited access to pediatric care and a waning primary care workforce in rural areas of the state. Montana Pediatrics provides service lines to help address these issues, and they include after-hours pediatric care, support of Native American populations, increasing access for families in crisis and addressing Montana’s youth mental health needs.
Montana Academy of Pediatric Physicians: The funding will be used to improve access to care for children and adolescents with depression, anxiety and related disorders. This will be accomplished through a three-year initiative hosted through the MTAAP Chapter to provide evidence-based education series through the REsource for Advancing Children’s Health (REACH) Institute Primary Pediatric Psychopharmacology (PPP) Mini-Fellowship. The goal is to engage 45 primary care providers a year (defined as physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants) who care for children and adolescents.
Rural Behavioral Health Institute: The grant will help with the mission of reducing suicide among youth living in rural regions of the US. The institute started using the Screening Linked to Care (SLTC) to identify youth with elevated suicide risk rapidly and accurately. After the screening, those identified with elevated suicide risk are connected with a health professional. Over the next three years, the Rural Behavioral Health Institute plans on expanding the use of SLTC to all Montana counties and 78,000 students by 2024-25.
NAMI Montana Awarded $15,000
In addition to the four grants highlighted above, BCBSMT also announced a $15,000 grant to NAMI Montana to bolster the organization’s mission to support, educate and advocate for Montanans with mental illnesses and their families.
Since 2014, BCBSMT has awarded more than $1.7 million through Big Blue Sky Initiative grants funded through HKHF. Additionally, BCBSMT contributes more than $500,000 each year to nonprofit organizations that support efforts throughout the state to improve the health of all Montanans.
BCBSMT launched a statewide Big Blue Sky Initiative to help fight opioid abuse, rising suicide rates and meth and heroin epidemics. Established to put resources in the hands of the communities BCBSMT serves, the Big Blue Sky Initiative aspires to bring health care providers, community groups, state government and other stakeholders together to fight this fight and set a positive example for years to come.
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 has provided high-quality health insurance plans and administrative services to Montanans for more than 80 years and is committed to ensuring its members — no matter where they are on the health spectrum — achieve maximum health. Headquartered in Helena with five regional offices, BCBSMT’s purpose is to stand with its members in sickness and in health.