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Hill County LAC hears presentation from Montana Peer Network


Last updated 2/9/2021 at 12:06pm

The Hill County Behavioral Health Local Advisory Council heard a presentation Monday by Montana Peer Network Executive Director Jim Hajny about a project aimed at getting people in-recovery from mental health, substance abuse or addiction struggles involved in local LACs.

Hajny said during the LAC’s monthly meeting that the Peer Advocacy and Leadership Project was started more than a year ago and he originally intended to go to each county to give presentations about it in person, but the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a significant wrench into the works.

He said the project’s goal is to strengthen the voices of people in-recovery across the state and involvement in LACs is one way to do that.

The project does this, in part, by offering free training to Montana Peer Network members to be effective participants in organizations like LACs, he said.

“For example, one of the trainings is,‘How To Be Effective on Councils and Boards,’ it’s the kind of knowledge somebody needs,” Hajny said.

He said he attended the meeting to extend an invitation to Hill County’s LAC to participate in the project, which he said can improve operations and increase its potential to bring in more funds from the state.

Council Member Curtis Smeby said he thinks participation in the project is a good idea and would have a positive impact not just on the LAC, but on the larger Service Area Authority they are part of.

Council Chair Andi Daniel said Hill County’s LAC has been invited to join Montana’s Eastern SAA as opposed to staying with the Central SAA.

Eastern SAA Coordinator Brent Morris was also at the meeting and said his SAA has implemented operational changes that have improved communication with its associated LACs and generally improved operational efficiency, changes that Smeby said the Central SAA has been resistant to implementing.

Morris said these changes have resulted in more than 90 percent of the funds they receive going back into the community in the form of programs.

“We’re on a good path, and we do invite you to join us,” he said.

“This move is supported by the state,” he added. “We’re not trying to steal people from Central.”

Morris also suggested during the presentation that the county could have more than one LAC, which is often a practical choice for counties with a reservation in them.

Council members discussed the possibility and Ron Kling said he thinks it would be best if Rocky Boy created its own LAC.

Council Vice-Chair Amber Spring also provided an update on her actives including ongoing QPR suicide-prevention training.

Spring said she’s also been working with a co-op student who is helping to put together the resource guide for local services that council members have discussed in past meetings.

She said they may also work on a specialized guide for young people and Native American communities to address their specific struggles.

Smeby said the Addictive and Mental Disorders Division of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services might print these resource guides as well as any info graphics they might use.

Spring said she’s also working on setting up Zoom workshops on anxiety, coping skills and possibly depression for Sunnyside Intermediate School and other schools in the area next month.

She also talked about the possibility of putting on a fair for potential health care workers to help guide them to the careers that best suit their talents and qualifications, or inform them of what skills and qualifications are needed for different career paths.

She said setting up the event would be a considerable amount of work and LAC members should know what they are getting into if they decided to move forward with the event.

In May, she said, she’s also thinking about setting up a contest for local students to create mental health awareness posters, with prizes for the winners and a gallery to show off the entries.

Daniel said she is still working on the grant that will be paying for much of this.

She said she sent Hill County Public Health Director and Health Officer Kim Larson a budget for the $20,000 grant and she sent it to the state.

Daniel said she’s making progress on potential videos LAC is looking to produce with the funds from the grant as well, but she hasn’t heard back regarding the billboards they are thinking of putting up.


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