(Missoula Current) In an effort to reach more students, Partnership Health Center and Missoula County Public Schools will soon offer behavioral health services at two new schools within the county.

Doing so expands upon similar programs offered at Lowell Elementary School and Willard Alternative High School. The program offers support to families experiencing grief, depression and substance abuse.

“We are working closely with Missoula County Public Schools to make sure we complement the great work they do to support youth health and well-being,” said Amy Krzyzek, program development manager at PHC.

The Health Resources Services Administration recently awarded Partnership a $350,000 grant to expand current services at the two schools, and to begin offering service at C.S. Porter Middle School and Franklin Elementary School.

After expansion, students at the four schools will have on-site access to mental health services, substance use disorder services, and support to address health-related social needs, including access to food and housing, or to sign up for health insurance.

According to PHC, the need for expanded access to mental health and substance use disorder services for local youth is evident in the state’s statistics. Montana has a youth suicide rate that is more than double the national average.

Nearly 40% of high school students in Missoula County also reported feeling sad or hopeless in the past year, which are symptoms consistent with depression, according to the Office of Public Instruction’s 2021 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Missoula also has higher rates of youth substance use than the rest of the state, with over one-third of high school students using alcohol and one-quarter of students using marijuana.

“Expanding our partnership with MCPS is so exciting because we know students need increased access to behavioral health services, and this school-based model brings that access right to them,” said Krzyzek.

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