Missoula County, UM to provide rural sexual assault counseling in Seeley Lake

Shantelle Gaynor

Missoula County commissioners on Wednesday approved a three-year, $66,000 contract with the University of Montana to provide mental health services to victims of sexual or domestic assault in Seeley Lake.

The funding, awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice, covers the county’s contract with the Department of Psychology at UM to provide rural counseling services in the Seeley Swan Valley, according to Shantelle Gaynor, director of Relationship Violence Services in Missoula

“This contract pays for us to contract with UM to have doctoral students in psychology provide free mental health services in Seeley Lake to victims of sexual or domestic violence or their children,” said Gaynor. “In addition, the clinician will deliver a support group for high-school teens who have experienced relationship violence, if desired by the clients.”

The Office on Violence Against Women awarded Relationship Violence Services a 36-month grant totaling $749,999 last October. Gaynor said the funding includes money for sub-recipients, such as UM.

The agreement with the university will cover the cost of sending a doctoral student serving as a mental health clinician to the Seeley area to provide psychotherapeutic services to rural victims of domestic and sexual crimes.

Gaynor said the funding will cover roughly 20 hours per week for three years, along with additional hours as needed. Counseling referrals come through schools and other service providers in the Seeley-Swan.

“A long time ago, Seeley Lake residents told us they desperately needed mental health services, but they didn’t want someone from the community providing them,” Gaynor said. “They wanted that space and anonymity. This is a cost-effective way of delivering that.”