The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on many programs in the state and the Western Montana Mental Health Center is no exception. Patrick Ryan is a Clinical Program Manager and he says they have had to close some of their services.

“We quickly realized we were going to have to close down, at least temporarily, our inpatient service because of the spread of this disease,” Ryan said. “We have 16 beds at Recovery Center Missoula and we had about 11 patients in there when we closed. We couldn’t take new admissions because there was no way to prevent bringing somebody in who might be carrying the virus and then spreading it in a very contained residential program.”

Their inpatient service may have closed, but Ryan says they mobilized incredibly quickly and put most of their services on a telehealth platform. According to Medical Director Marc Mentel, this is something they were hoping to implement in the near future anyway.

“It can be a really good platform because now we can actually keep people in their homes and they can use their iPhones, their iPads, and their computers,” Mentel said. “We can also use a telephone if they don’t have those other options. We can reach out to them and talk to them in their own houses. We are actually learning some things that are a benefit. We can see how they are living, how they are doing, and get an idea of their day to day. It gives us a little more insight. It does have its benefits, but it also has its detractors as well.”

According to Ryan, this is a really difficult time for folks who suffer from mental health issues. However, he said there are some simple things people can do to make things easier.

“Think of things that have worked in the past,” Ryan said. “Practice breathing techniques, take breaths slowly in and out. Stop and pay attention to the world around you. As things seem uncontrollable out there in the world with this unseen virus, really pay attention to where you are at and what you are doing. I recommend people doing gratitude lists to remind themselves about the really good things that are in our lives.”

If you’re in need of help, Ryan encourages you to visit their new website.  He said they could potentially provide service that same day.

More From Newstalk KGVO 1290 AM & 98.3 FM