Montana Public Radio


Mental health services.
Flickr user Publik15 (CC-BY-SA)

Demand for mental health care has been rising through the coronavirus pandemic after months of job loss, climbing death rates and loneliness. Now, despite dwindling funds and technical difficulties, Montana mental health providers are using unusual strategies to reach isolated patients.


Jason Farrar (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, Montana’s prisons have stopped allowing in person visits to inmates since March. As cases continue to stack up across the state and inside correctional facilities, difficulties maintaining communication between inmates and their loved ones have also increased. Experts say isolation among inmates can negatively impact inmates' mental health and make it harder for them to adjust once out of prison.


A syringe in a container labeled COVID-19 vaccine.

Montana on Wednesday released an updated COVID-19 vaccine plan that incorporates new federal guidance on how shots will be distributed to critical groups into next summer.

When the coronavirus hit the U.S., hospitals issued strict limitations on visitors. Nurses and doctors started acting as liaisons to the sick and dying for family members not allowed at bedsides. As deaths reach new daily highs, that work is not getting any easier. The emotional toil of adapting to new dynamics with patients and families at one rural hospital in Livingston, Mont., is a case study of what health care workers are grappling with all over the country.

Lockers in an empty school hallway.

The COVID relief bill passed by Congress Monday outlines more funding for Montana’s K-12 public school districts. State education officials say this round could be nearly four times larger than what districts received this summer.



Montana’s Mask Mandate In Doubt With Incoming Governor

Dec 21, 2020
State Capitol, Helena
Jacob Baynham / Community News Service, UM School of Journalism

HELENA, Mont. — Incoming Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signaled he won’t continue a statewide mask mandate in place since July, though he said he plans to wear a mask himself and get vaccinated against COVID-19.

A coronavirus testing swab in a test tube.

Reported cases of people getting reinfected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are rare in the U.S. and none have been confirmed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But researchers say studying possible reinfections could answer some big questions about the body’s natural immune response after being infected with the virus.

When Montana Governor elect Greg Gianforte assumes office Jan. 4, he’ll inherit an ongoing response to the worst public health crisis to face the state in a century. The current U.S. Congressman says he’s holding off on releasing specifics about protecting public health while reopening businesses until he’s sworn in.

But in an interview with Yellowstone Public Radio’s Rachel Cramer, Gianforte says he’ll lead by example by masking up while in the capital and getting a vaccine when it’s available.

Gov. Steve Bullock Friday announced Montana will receive 20 percent fewer COVID-19 vaccine doses than expected through the end of the year.

Montana’s vaccine allocation will drop from 60,000 to 48,000 doses this year, according to a news release from Bullock’s office. Other states also announced cuts to their shipments Friday.

In a statement, Bullock said the news is disappointing but the state will continue to prioritize protecting Montana’s most vulnerable populations and those serving on the front lines.

The two large hospital systems in Billings are busy administering nearly 2,000 COVID-19 vaccines this week. The first jabs were met with joy and celebration.

Hundreds of St. Vincent Healthcare frontline workers and a handful of Billings Clinic workers received the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 15.

Emergency medicine physician Douglas Parker is the first up at St. Vincent’s.

He holds up the dark blue sleeve of his scrubs and a nurse sticks his upper arm in front of a group of excited onlookers.