Montana Rural Telemental Health Program

Connecting children in rural areas with trauma-trained therapists

The Challenge

Children who experience sexual and other types of abuse and neglect benefit from trauma-informed and evidence-based therapy. However, children living in rural and remote areas of Montana often do not have access to trained and experienced therapists. Even if there is a therapist in their community, children may face other barriers to accessing therapy such as long wait times for the therapist to have availability, fear of stigma attached to attending therapy, or lack of transportation.

The Solution

The Children’s Alliance of Montana (CAM) designed the Montana Rural Telemental Health Program and partners with multiple stakeholders across the state to help all children who are survivors of abuse and neglect in Montana access trauma-informed mental health services regardless of their location or other barriers. CAM connects children referred to the program with a therapist in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) who provides therapy via secure video conferencing platforms.

Free iPad Loaner Program

To help increase access to mental health services, CAM can loan out iPads to children referred to the Montana Rural Telemental Health Program who do not have access to their own devices for video conferencing. All iPads are provided free of charge and have strong security features that prevent children from accessing any applications other than the ones used for therapy (i.e., no access to games, web browsers, etc.). Children are also unable to enter any identifying information into the devices. 

All iPads are WIFI-enabled, and most of the iPads are also data-enabled so children without access to WIFI can access the internet via mobile data through telecommunications carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. This service is provided free-of-cost to any child needing a device. At the end of their therapy, children will return the device to CAM for it to be cleaned and sent to another child needing therapy.  

Program Stakeholders

CAM works with partners and stakeholders across the state to make this effort successful, such as the following:

Therapists​

CAM has established the Montana Telemental Health Trauma Treatment Network to provide training and support to therapists supporting children referred to the Montana Rural Telemental Health Program. All therapists are trained in TF-CBT and have received advanced training in implementing TF-CBT via telehealth through the Montana Rural Telemental Health Program. Many of the therapists also have additional training in other trauma-focused therapy techniques and approaches.

Our network therapists come from private practice and Children’s Advocacy Centers. Additionally, we have multiple therapists participating from two state-wide mental health organizations: Yellowstone Boys & Girls Ranch and Youth Dynamics, Inc.

Victim Advocates, Child Protective Services (CPS), & Other Child Serving Professionals

Child serving professionals are those who identify children in need of therapy and refer them to the Montana Rural Telemental Health Program. Referrers to the program have a variety of titles and positions, such as the following: 

  • Victim Advocates/Victim Witness Advocates
  • Social Workers
  • CPS Child Protection Specialists/Supervisors
  • FBI Victim Witness Specialists
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs Victim Specialists
  • Tribal Social Services
  • Tribal Victim Advocates
  • Any professionals with other titles who provide similar services and/or identify and refer child victims to mental health services

Make a Referral!

If you have a child to refer to the program, please download and complete the necessary referral forms:

Referral Form A for CAM & Therapists

Referral Form B for Therapists

Resources

Thank you to our program partners!

There are many partners who have played a critical role in getting the Montana Rural Telemental Health Program up and running. CAM sincerely thanks the project partners listed below for their valuable contributions.

Western Regional Children’s Advocacy Center (WRCAC)

WRCAC provides technical and funding support for the Montana Rural Telemental Health Program. Their technical assistance has been invaluable to developing the program’s policies, processes, and forms; and their financial support has enabled the program to train therapists, victim advocates, CPS workers, and other child serving professionals across the state. CAM would like to extend particular thanks to Clorinda Merino and Charles Wilson for their guidance and support.   

Training Team

Dr. Regan Stewart, Assistant Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina; Paula Condol, M.S., LPCC, Executive Director of the Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center in North Dakota; and Nicola Herting, Ph.D., Clinical Director of the Sanford Traumatic Stress Treatment Center and Interim Mental Health Director at the Red River Children’s Advocacy Center in North Dakota, have provided valuable trainings to Montana therapists, victim advocates, CPS workers, and other child serving professionals on implementing TF-CBT via telehealth. They have also provided technical guidance to CAM. 

Regan, Paula, and Nicola designed and developed the first pilot project that leveraged Children’s Advocacy Centers to bring telemental health services to children in rural areas of North Dakota. They have generously shared the knowledge, resources, and materials from that project so that CAM could build on their lessons learned to develop the Montana Rural Telemental Health Program. This program wouldn’t be possible without their willingness to share their time and expertise.

Blue Moon Technologies

Blue Moon Technologies, a North Dakota-based IT company, prepares all of the Montana Rural Telemental Health Program’s iPads with the necessary security features. Blue Moon also provides IT and troubleshooting support to therapists when a child has any issues with their iPad. The team at Blue Moon is incredibly knowledgeable and responsive in making sure the technology aspects of the program run as smoothly as possible!

Steering Committee

The Montana Rural Telemental Health Program has an engaged steering committee that meets regularly to discuss program considerations. CAM sincerely thanks the steering committee members listed below for sharing their time and expertise:

  • Moyra Anthony, MSW, MBA, LCSW (Clinical Director of Community Services at Youth Dynamics, Inc.) 
  • MC Jenni, LCSW (Therapist at First Step Resource Center)
  • Lesly Kassmier (Clinical Supervisor at Yellowstone Boys & Girls Ranch)
  • Dennis Nyland (Montana Mental Health Ombudsman at Montana Governor’s Office)
  • Laura Sebulsky, MBSR (Director of Clinical Outreach & Admissions at Charlie Health)
  • Dana Toole (Bureau Chief at Montana Department of Justice)
  • Jamie Vanderlinden (CAC Director & Director of Behavioral Health at Butte Children’s Evaluation Center, Southwest Montana Community Health Center)
  • Jennifer Winkley (CPS Supervisor & CAC Director at Department of Public Health and Human Service – Child & Family Services Division)

Questions about the Program?

If you are a therapist or someone who is in the role of referring a child and are interested in learning more about this program, we are happy to have a conversation with you and share more about the Montana Rural Telemental Health Program. Please contact Jacole at jacole@childrensalliancemt.org.

Funding

The Montana Rural Telemental Health Program’s pilot phase is supported by the Western Regional Children’s Advocacy Center through cooperative agreement #2019-CI-FX-K002 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions and/or recommendations expressed on this website and other program documents are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.