By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Golden Triangle Mental Health Center is celebrating 30 years of service in central Montana by holding its first charity fund-raiser this weekend - Dignity Dash 2004, a 10k run and walk, with a special roll-a-thon for anyone who is on wheels.
"In addition to raising some funds, this event is primarily to educate people in our community about mental health issues," said Pam Veis, a psychiatric nurse and adult case manager at Golden Triangle. "There's still a strong stigma associated with mental health illnesses and we need to work to reduce that."
The Dignity Dash is Saturday, beginning at 7:30 a.m., at Pepin Park. The entry fee is $10 per person; children under 12 with an adult can participate for free. Participants will receive a free T-shirt and a piece of anniversary cake.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," Amy Cline, children's case manager at Golden Triangle, said Wednesday. "All the proceeds will stay here locally, helping our clients with their various needs."
Golden Triangle relies on private donations to provide more than $400,000 in charity care each year. Veis said mental illnesses - like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder - affect more that 54 million people in the United States. Golden Triangle, a nonprofit agency offering psychiatric treatment for both adults and children, serves 12 counties in central Montana and treats an estimated 250 people in Hill County.
"We're trying to keep people suffering from mental illnesses in the community and in their homes, while helping to fight the stigma that they face," said Veis, who estimates it costs $100,000 per year for a mentally ill patient to receive inpatient psychiatric care at the Montana State Hospital. "People often see the behaviors of the mentally ill and label them immediately, calling them crazy or something. They don't realize that it's not the person; those behaviors are really the illness manifesting itself."
Seventy area businesses donated time or services to the Dignity Dash, a showing of support Golden Triangle workers hope continues within the community.
"Mental health issues are so often swept under the rug," Cline said. "It's really important that we try to reduce that and make people realize that mental health issues are just as important as any other health issues."
Call 265-9639 for more information on the Dignity Dash or the mental health services available in Hill County.