The Awareness Network
BCBSMT has a rich history of giving back to the communities it serves. This includes working with organizations to improve mental health in adults and children.
BCBSMT has supported the annual NAMI Montana NAMIWalk in Helena, both through grants and sponsorships, as well as employees volunteering their time during the event. The NAMIWalk, held for the 15th time last fall, recognizes that every journey begins with that first step. Through NAMIWalk’s public display of support for people with mental health challenges, the organization is helping change how Montanans view mental illness.
NAMI Montana also was instrumental in bringing a new youth suicide prevention and intervention program to the state. Research shows the Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM) program reduces suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts by more than 50 percent. The five-hour program is spread out over five weeks. Trained facilitators implement the YAM program, which includes interactive talks, role-playing and mental health resources.
More than 1,000 students in 11 schools throughout the state are introduced to the program as ninth graders. Helena high schools, as well as several schools on American Indian reservations, have implemented it. Montana and Texas are part of a pilot project for YAM. The goal of the program is to not only teach students about mental health awareness and risk factors, but also provide skills for dealing with adverse life events.
“BCBSMT has been a longtime major donor for NAMI Montana,” said Matt Kuntz, executive director of NAMI Montana. “Through the support of BCBSMT and other generous donors, we have been able to partner with other groups to launch and complete a number of initiatives that are improving Montana’s mental illness treatment system, such as establishing mental health peer services in Montana, developing children’s mental health crisis beds, and preventing the incarceration of offenders with serious mental illness.”
The Awareness Network in Helena is another BCBSMT partner organization focusing on mental health.