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Briefs: Youth Risk Behavior survey; Great Falls health funding; Kalispell superintendent

Report shows Montana high schoolers experiencing depression symptoms has increased
Montana Public Radio | By John Hooks

Over 40% of Montana high schoolers reported experiencing symptoms of depression in the last year. That data comes from a biannual report published by the Office of Public Instruction (OPI).

The 2023 Youth Risk Behavior Survey asks students about drug, alcohol and tobacco use, all of which are down among Montana teens.

But the number of students who reported persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness continues to grow. That figure went from 25% a decade ago to 42% in the latest survey.

Montana roughly mirrors national trends.

State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen argued the answer to curbing the trend partly lies with community providers.

“School is not a mental health provider. It is important that we partner together with clinicians that are in our communities,” Arntzen said.

The OPI conducts the anonymous survey every two years as part of a national data collection effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call 988 for help.

A Great Falls biomedical research facility gets awarded millions to launch a rural health center
Montana Public Radio | By Ellis Juhlin

A biomedical research facility in Great Falls has been awarded nearly $14 million to launch a rural health research center.

The McLaughlin Research Institute received the grant from the National Institute of Health.

The research will look at three human diseases that disproportionately affect people in rural areas: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and age-related vision impairments like macular degeneration.

The fourth project will research Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, which threatens food reliability by affecting game animals like deer and elk.

Renee Reijo Pera is the institute’s CEO and director and spoke on the matter.

“When you think about these four projects, they're all neurological disorders or health problems, and they also have unique rural manifestations or consequences,” Pera said.

Pera pointed to examples like Alzheimer’s disease being more challenging in areas with limited access to neurologists or memory care facilities. Many Montanans' lifestyle often depends on driving.

“And so, macular degeneration has outsized impacts in a rural environment. Similarly, Parkinson's disease,” Pera said.

The research will be carried out collaboratively between the center and the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Great Falls.

Matt Jensen to become the Kalispell Public Schools superintendent this fall
Montana Public Radio | Victoria Traxler

Kalispell Public Schools employee Matt Jensen will step into the role of superintendent this fall.

He currently serves as the school district’s assistant superintendent. Jensen told MTPR he considers the new position “an incredible honor” and is looking forward to taking on further responsibilities in supporting the school district.

The position became available last year following the departure of Superintendent Micah Hill, who was hired to lead Missoula Public Schools.

Jensen previously worked as superintendent of Bigfork Public Schools until joining Kalispell in 2021.

John joined the Montana Public Radio team in August 2022. Born and raised in Helena, he graduated from the University of Montana’s School of Media Arts and created the Montana history podcast Land Grab. John can be contacted at
Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
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