One Year Later: Healthy Together shares update on community health improvement initiatives

August 24, 2020

Today, Lewis and Clark Healthy Together taskforce shares the annual progress report for the 2019-2022 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) with the community. The CHIP identifies behavioral health, including suicide prevention, and early childhood as priority health improvement areas. Members of the taskforce laud the progress that has been made over the past year, even amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The Healthy Together taskforce is comprised of over two dozen partners from various organizations in Lewis and Clark County. The group is spearheaded by Lewis and Clark Public Health, St. Peter’s Health, PureView Health Center, Rocky Mountain Development Council, and the United Way of the Lewis and Clark Area.

Every three years the CHIP’s priority areas are chosen based on review of data and community dialogue, according to Lewis and Clark Public Health Officer Drenda Niemann.  “We collectively chose the priority areas based in part on data collected through a comprehensive Community Health Needs Assessment,” said Niemann. “We also chose the areas based on community discussion, so we were able to create a road map for our community to improve both individual and community-wide health.

Despite all the disruptions that COVID has created, two of the priorities areas have found ways to continue to move forward thanks to technology and community partnerships: Behavioral Health Education and Awareness and Access and Referrals to Services.

Behavioral Health Education and Awareness – Suicide Prevention and Awareness Trainings Still Available for Community

The Lewis and Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition continues to offer behavioral health and suicide awareness prevention education to the community. Course offerings available to community members, organizations and employers include:

  • Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) Suicide Prevention Training
  • Mental Health First Aid
  • Military Strong

The goal of the education opportunities is to equip all community members with the knowledge and tools to help people who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Those interested in training can contact Lewis and Clark County Suicide Prevention Coordinator Jess Hegstrom at

Referrals and Access to Services – Nearly 70 agencies added to referral system in Year One

The Montana CONNECT system is a HIPAA-secure-bi-directional referral system that allows for organizations to seamlessly and electronically refer people to other organizations in the community including health care providers, career trainings, WIC and home visiting programs. Since 2019, 68 new agencies and programs in the Lewis and Clark area have started using the system to connect organizations to the services they need, when they need it. Knowing what help is out there is especially important during trying times when people may be experiencing heightened financial struggles or other challenges.

If you are interested in becoming more involved in the Community Health Improvement Planning Process please contact Lewis and Clark County Public Health Officer at

The June 2020 Progress Report is available online at:

The 2019-2022 CHIP is available online at: