HELENA – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana announced Monday a donation to Billings Clinic to help with the development of a new psychiatric residency program, the first of its kind in Montana.
“Montana is a rough and tumble state,” says John Doran, Blue Cross and Blue Shield VP of External Affairs. “But you can’t pull your bootstraps up and tough it out with mental illness. It doesn’t work that way. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana has made fighting mental illness one of our top priorities for this coming year.”
The $250,000 donation will help fund the program which begins with residents attending the University of Washington for the first two years after medical school, and years three and four in Montana.
Those involved in the announcement point out the staggering number of suicides in Montana and the need to get more psychiatric leaders trained and working in the state.
“Montana was one of three states in the country that have no psychiatry residency program. The other two states are Wyoming and Alaska,” says Eric Arzubi, M.D., Billings Clinic Psychiatric Services Chair. “These three states are also among the three, the top three when it comes to suicide rates nationally.”
Adds Billings Clinic Psychiatrist Dr. Julie Kelso, “This will not be Billings Clinic alone. It’s going to be a statewide effort with these residents rotating through our critical access hospitals, in our reservations, in our correctional facilities and working with our veterans.”
Dr. Kelso says more than 400 applications were received for the first three positions available in the program, which begins next summer.
Reporting by Melissa Jensen for MTN News