BOZEMAN - The Montana Department of Agriculture finished rolling out its ‘Beyond the Weather’ program designed to provide access to mental health services to those in the agriculture industry in Montana. The final prong of the program is to provide free counseling services to those in agriculture.
“Montana we know has been struggling with a mental health crisis. Which in my mind it's been less of a crisis and more of a chronic problem,” says Dr. Eric Arzubi, CEO of Frontier Psychiatry
The Montana Dept. of Agriculture launched free counseling services for those in the Montana farming and ranching community on April 15th.
“For me, this is one of the most important tools because it actually provides real mental health services,” says Christy Clark, Director, Montana Department of Agriculture.
The program aims to provide telehealth counseling services for a community with limited access.
“Make things easy for farmers and ranchers who may otherwise struggle to reach out,” says Arzubi.
The Department of Ag partnered with Frontier Psychiatry. Arzubi says he hopes to be a part of a change in the state.
“What we have been doing for decades in mental health in Montana has not been working,” says Arzubi.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 17.9 percent of those in Montana were not able to get access to mental health care such as counseling or therapy.
“This is a community of people that often does not have good access to mental health, rural communities tend to get isolated,” says Clark.
Through telehealth, they hope to reach out to every corner of the state.
“We want to do everything possible to make mental health services accessible to anyone in any part of Montana,” says Arzubi.
As the program has rolled out Clark and Arzubi say the reception has been good from those in the community.
“The very first day we got four calls, and I had no idea what the demand was going to be or how willing people were going to be about reaching out,” says Arzubi. “But I tell you we got four callers and three out of the four were people who had never reached out for mental health services before.
Understanding that sometimes the field and the job make it hard to reach out.
“To have that bridge now where it's a pretty easy bridge to cross to get help. Where before you had to drive to town. It's not realistic when you are calving and caught up,” says Clark.
“I guarantee you there are way more people struggling than one can imagine, it always feels like you're the only one, but you're not,” says Arzubi.
Both are optimistic that a change will take place across our state.
“I think we're going to see a difference. I think that the agriculture community is going to embrace mental wellness, and mental health and start to look out for each other in those capacities,” says Clark.
Below is a link to the Dept. of Agriculture website with steps on getting connected to counseling and the number to schedule an appointment: 406-200-8471 and press 7.