Horizon Lodge residents were the first recipients of iPads purchased with grant funds received by the Pondera County Health Department (PCHD). The $40,000 grant was applied for from the Addictive and Mental Disorders Division (AMDD) of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. Pictured are, left to right, Estelle Rausher, Horizon Lodge Manager; Michaela Orcutt, PCHD and son Waylon; Horizon Lodge resident Pat Tribey, PCHD’s Tammy Totdahl; Horizon Lodge residents Claudia Duncan and Joyce Copenhaver (sitting); and Rondale Sheldon, Horizon Lodge; and PCHD’s Director Nicki Sullivan and Shauna Wood.

Taking care of Pondera County residents’ physical health is high on the priority list of the Pondera County Health Department (PCHD)–but so is making sure residents’ mental health needs are met. Recently the Pondera County Health Department applied for and received a grant from the Addictive and Mental Disorders Division (AMDD) of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. 

“This grant was meant to focus on mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic,” explained Nicki Sullivan, PCHD Director. “One of our goals for utilizing the grant funds was to purchase iPads for our retirement and assisted living facilities.” Sullivan said locking charging carts were also purchased for each facility to store them in securely. 

The first facility to receive the iPads was Horizon Lodge in Conrad. PCHD staff provided short training sessions with the residents and then provided instructions to go along with each iPad. 

“It is our hope this will help residents in these facilities stay connected to friends and family throughout COVID-19,” shared Sullivan.

The PCHD purchase 30 iPads at a cost of $350 each. Also purchased were locking charging carts for the iPads. According to Sullivan, they are distributing 10 iPads each to Horizon Lodge and the Beehive Assisted Living Facility. Another six will be used at Pondera Medical Center’s Long Term Care Facility and the remaining four will be housed at the PCHD office for community members to come in and use or check out.

Sullivan admits it was a little bit of a challenge getting the seniors to use the new devices. “A lot of them were very scared to even touch them. It was a lot to take in for them,” she said. ‘We loaded apps such as Google Duo, Facebook along with games like Solitaire, Word Connect and Word Search. We also instructed them on how to Facetime.”

Many residents asked if they could use the iPads to access email. “We encouraged them to just take one and explore and to familiarize themselves with it,” remarked Sullivan.

The PCHD is using a portion of the grant funds to send Steve Baliko, one of the local mental health counselors, to training to become a Mental Health First Aid Trainer. “It’s like CPR for mental health,” explained Sullivan. “It’s designed for the general public to increase awareness.”

The PCHD also used the grant funds to host a ReBOOT Soccer Mental Health Awareness program for local youth, concluded Sullivan.

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