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Big Sky Relief stabilizes, looks ahead

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EBS STAFF

BIG SKY—The most recent meetings in the ongoing virtual series of Big Sky Relief Operational Partners Coordination meetings revealed that many organizations are finding their footing in the midst of the crisis. Support efforts that have been in the works for nearly one month now are reporting functionality and stability, and Bozeman Health is putting resources into pandemic projections and future planning.

Emergency responders, including the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office and the Big Sky Fire Department report healthy employees and overall preparedness, however the GCSO did alert to an increase in thefts and advised residents to take extra care to secure their homes. Additionally, the Big Sky School District, while likely having to postpone graduation ceremonies, is continuing distance learning.

The Big Sky Community Food Bank continues to serve food emergency needs, with approximately half of the current clients being new to food bank needs. BSCFB suspects that their food resources will begin to dwindle as local grocers’ surpluses decline and tourists that typically leave extra food aren’t visiting. The BSCFB will begin to publish sponsorship opportunities in the future.

Coordinated efforts by the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce and the Big Sky Community Organization led to the formation of the Employee-Employer Assistance Hotline, which is tentatively scheduled to launch on April 14. The hotline, manned by six business volunteers is designed to provide information and assistance for unemployment insurance, the CARES ACT, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Payroll Protection Loans. Both the BSCO and BSCC continue to be resources, helping especially with general individual and community needs and business relief support, respectively.

Women in Action continues to lead the initiative to increase mental health support outlets in the community. WIA’s newly appointed counselor, Kasey Anderson, is available to take new clients, and due to a “significant budget” allocated to mental and behavioral health, as reported by WIA, a possibility of extending free counseling services has arisen.

The BSCO, a partner in the newly formed Behavioral Health Coalition, launched a community calendar on their website, which features virtual engagement event opportunities for community members, including cooking classes, fly tying classes and after school programming. “There is literally something for everyone for our community to stay connected at this time,” said Ciara Wolfe, CEO of the BSCO.

While support measures are blooming, President of Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital and Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical Center Dr. Kathryn Bertany reported that Bozeman Health has begun to direct its gaze forward. A team dedicated to forecasting COVID-19 needs and case projections has been developed and is working with the Montana Health Department and the World Health Organization, among others, to create accurate local projections.

Bozeman Health reported a “planning horizon,” which is an eight-week period extending through the first week of June and predicts the peak surge to arrive around the week of April 27. Current projections suggest that in Bozeman Health hospitals at the projected peak surge date, as many as 83 patients may need hospital care and 17 patients may need ICU care.

In response to these predictions, both BHBSMC and BHDH are preparing areas that can be used as flex rooms. BHDH currently has an additional 38 beds and construction for the additional four beds at BHBSMC continues with an expected completion date of May 5. Dr. Bertany reported that as a system, Bozeman Health feels confident in its ability to manage the projected surge.

To review the minutes for these meetings, visit bigskyrelief.org.

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