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February 23, 2024

Case Study: Montana Hospital Association

The Montana Hospital Association unites member efforts to address healthcare worker stress by promoting balance, bolstering support for caregivers and enhancing access to care.

Montana Hospital Association

The Challenge:

Montana faces a suicide crisis, ranking third in the nation for suicide fatalities in 2021. Healthcare workers in particular are at increased risk for mental health crises resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. As a small business association representing a number of rural hospital employees, the Montana Hospital Association coalesced resources to provide accessible wellness for its 36 employees as well as the 80 health organizations it represents statewide.

The Solution:

Both exercise and being in nature reduce stress and improve mental well-being. Montana Hospital Association encourages employees to do both. Workers can take paid time off before, during or after work for exercise, including at the company’s one-mile outdoor walking loop or on nearby ski trips with colleagues.

Employees also can take time off for volunteer work, an activity that builds resilience to stress, anxiety and depression.

When the Covid pandemic shut down Montana schools for a year, the association converted a conference room at its Helena headquarters to a one-room school for 22 of its employees’ children. The association ensured all children had laptops to connect to their virtual programs and hired an in-person teacher for extra help.“This dramatically reduced the level of stress and anxiety our team members had,” says CEO Rich Rasmussen.

Lack of access to mental health services is a challenge in rural states like Montana. The association addressed this by making psychiatric telehealth help available for employees and providing Mental Health First Aid suicide-prevention training for employees and association members.

The Result:

The association plans to soon implement strategies to measure the impact of its policies. It recently instituted retention interviews, finding employees stay because of the connection they find with other workers.

Key Actions:

  • Giving employees time off for exercise, especially out in nature
  • Encouraging volunteer work
  • Setting up an on-site school for employees’ children during shutdowns
  • Providing access to mental health services and training