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State announces new program for Montana parents

Governor Steve Bullock was joined by public health professionals on Wednesday to announce new tools to help Montana parents.

Parenting Montana is a new resource through the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) that provides integrated information to help parents overcome some of the issues Montana adolescents face.

The prevention effort includes a website and media campaign.

At the program’s reveal, Bullock praised the efforts of the health professionals who built the resource and noted there are times when every parent needs extra help.

“Anything we can do to provide parents the skills and resources, it’s something to look at for what is also probably the most important job that any of us can have, can only benefit us all,” said Bullock.

The website uses supportive tools designed around evidence-based practices to help parents in places where they might be struggling.

People can find topics tailored to the child’s age including resources regarding bullying, confidence issues, homework and underage drinking.

Motor vehicle crashes, overdoses, and suicide account for six out of every 10 deaths of children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 25 in Montana.

“I’m a parent, and I wish this resource would’ve been available to me,” DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said. “I remember having conversations with my family and friends years ago around the same issues Parenting Montana addresses. This new tool will be an excellent resource for Montanans in the years to come.”

Each tool on the website uses a five-step process for dealing with issues. DPHHS staff said the tools are not be-all and end-all ways of dealing with the problems families face, but tools parents can customize to their situation.

Thirty-five state and county-funded prevention coordinators received training on the new tools.

“Parenting Montana is a resource that gives prevention specialists throughout the state the tools that we need to support our communities,” said Brandee Tyree of the Youth Connections Coalition. “This will allow for a comprehensive statewide approach and help us work from the same message.”

Parenting Montana was created by using $1.8 million in federal prevention funds from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

DPHHS contracted with MSU’s Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC) for the project.

The program was designed around the input from Montana parents gathered in surveys and focus groups.

“People asked for this,” said Hogan, “It was requested by parents.”

Jay Otto, a Principal Scientist for the Center for Health and Safety Culture, noted this is just the beginning of the program with more growth planned.

“This is a platform we can build on over the years,” said Otto. “The first thing we want to do is see are [the prevention specialists and coordinators] able to use the resources we’ve been able to create for them to connect parents to the site.”

Otto noted CHSC should have their first data on the effectiveness of the program coming out in the next year.

For more information about Parenting Montana, visit their website.

-Reported by John Riley/MTN News

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