BILLINGS- Gov. Steve Bullock helped introduce Wednesday at Billings Clinic a major step forward in the battle for Montana’s mental health.
Bullock was the featured speakers for Billings Clinic’s announcement of a $2.2 million federal grant to establish a pediatric psychiatry helpline.
“Every time that I have had the good fortune to be part of one of these we know that it is the start to fundamentally impacting people’s lives,” said Bullock.
Montana has a major deficit in mental health services, experts say, and Billings Clinic has been at the forefront of trying to change the way mental health services are administered across the state.
The major challenges in Montana are the lack of psychiatrists in the state and the large rural population spread across a large geographic area.
In an effort to address the first of these issues, Billings Clinic launched the first psychiatric residency program in Montana. The hospital has already received over 400 applications for the three positions in the inaugural residency class.
In an effort to address the second challenge, hospital officials unveiled their vision for mental health care in Montana.
The vision hinges on using technology to maximize the resources at hand to spread the expertise of limited mental health professionals across the state.
The pediatric psychiatry helpline is a concrete step forward in that vision and aims to make the expertise of pediatric psychiatrists available to primary care workers across the state said chair of psychiatry at Billings Clinic, Dr. Eric Arzubi said.
“We do have some great child psychiatrists in the state, how can we leverage their know-how and make it more available to people across the state?…We are essentially going to mirror a model, and copy a model that already exists and already works. And that is, to give primary care access to a phone number and they’ll get access to a child psychiatrist in 15-30 minutes,” said Dr. Arzubi.
With one in five Montana children likely to need access to mental health services, any expansion of care is positive for Montana. The fact that this program represents cooperation between private business and public funding shows the attention being paid to mental health care in Montana.
And with Montana continually finishing close to the top of the national rankings in suicide rate it is attention well directed. Hospital official hope this program can be a step towards changing the face of mental health in Montana.
Reporting by Connor Pregizer for MTN News