While most of our attention has been on COVID-19 and the potential harm it can bring, many of the consequences of the remedies implemented to defeat the virus have resulted in life-threatening hardships. Pandemics cause stress. And along with losing jobs or income due to government shutdowns and mandates, worries over COVID and bank accounts are turning people to drugs, alcohol, and even suicide.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin issued a letter on Tuesday, letting the community know that his department, along with other local law enforcement and mental health providers are working together to help people through this tough time they are facing.

In his letter, Gootkin pointed out that:

  • Calls for help in regards to drug & alcohol use in Gallatin County are on the increase.
  • Threats of suicide have sharply increased.

If you feel isolated or are experiencing personal difficulties, Sheriff Gootkin emphasized you can call 911 and request a CIT-trained deputy or the Community Crisis Response therapist. If your situation is not an emergency, you can call 582-2100 and make the same requests.

Here is Sheriff Gootkin's letter in its entirety:

The social isolation and disruption of lives that have come with COVID-19 have impacts beyond medical, social, and financial. For some people, the strain reduces their ability to cope with life and can causes psychological crisis. Many coping mechanisms, such as time with friends and family, have become more difficult. On top of that, access to resources that might help people cope, such as therapists or the food bank, has been restricted.

Over the last five months, drug and alcohol use has been an increasing element of calls where people are reaching out for help. Calls for Community Crisis Response (CCR) have gone up five times. When law enforcement is called for a welfare check, the CCR therapist often responds as well. Some calls involve psychosis or other mental health crisis; some people need access to resources that can help them cope. Completed suicide rates haven’t risen, but suicide threats have sharply increased. Many of the calls come from friends, counselors, and social service providers who are worried about someone’s threats to kill themselves.

Law enforcement and mental health providers are working together to help people through this tough time. If you are worried about someone’s mental health, there are resources available, in addition to private therapists and Western Montana Mental Health Center.

In an emergency, you can call 911 and request a CIT-trained deputy or the Community Crisis Response therapist. If there isn’t an emergency yet, you can call 582-2100 and make the same requests.

- Sheriff Brian Gootkin

Who Would Have Thought This Could Happen?