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Bozeman Health Committed to Meeting Mental Health Needs

Community news | Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Contact: Lauren Brendel, M.S.

We know that behavioral health is a topic that is experienced at a very personal level for each of us – as are its impacts on our loved ones. We appreciate the passion and dedication with which many of us work together to improve behavioral health services in Bozeman, Gallatin County, and southwest Montana. Bozeman Health is committed to continuing this collaborative work.

Together with the community, our governing board, and executive leaders, Bozeman Health started a journey in 2013 to explore how we could better serve the region through transitioning from a one-town hospital to an integrated health system, well positioned to meet the needs of a growing southwest Montana with locally owned, accountable care.

When John Hill joined the organization as president and CEO in mid-2016, he engaged with our governance and executive leadership in identifying the significant need to improve behavioral health services in the region. This sense was reaffirmed by conversations with our care teams, community members, and in the findings of our 2017 Community Health Needs Assessment.

This collective impact approach evolved into the Elevating Behavioral Health Collaborative (EBH) with a steering committee comprised of 13 leading community organizations, resulting in two large community behavioral health summits involving over 100 community members representing dozens of organizations and industries, and ongoing working groups. Cooperative endeavors continue to move forward solutions to improve access, enhance coordination, reduce stigma, and ensure effective crisis intervention.

Building on this work, last year, a group of community partners including Bozeman Health, Gallatin County, Gallatin City-County Health Department, Community Health Partners, Western Montana Mental Health Center, the Help Center, City of Bozeman, and Montana Healthcare Foundation, along with individuals from Bozeman Police, the Detention Center, and others joined together to form the Gallatin County Behavioral Health Crisis Redesign Committee (CRC).

The report found that the additional support services required to provide quality inpatient care are not yet in place. It further emphasized that current patient volumes would not support a high-quality program that would enable the recruitment and retention of high caliber professionals to care for those in an inpatient behavioral health setting.

While neither the work of EBH nor the initial review of the data and insights gathered for the CRC report recommend the immediate establishment of a traditional inpatient behavioral health unit at Deaconess Hospital, we recognize that while data helps to inform us, it cannot be the only source of information used when making decisions to ensure our communities have the resources they need to thrive. What our care team members and community providers are seeing on the ground offers a broader understanding of the challenges before us.

Addressing our growing region’s mental health needs will always require multi-dimensional solutions. We will build on the progress we have made with our ongoing work to improve crisis response systems, increase access to integrated behavioral health services, expand telepsychiatry offerings, reduce stigma, support the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center, fund Gallatin Mental Health Center operations, and enhance the capability of our emergency departments to serve patients requiring acute and immediate mental health and substance abuse services.

We recognize the desire for local inpatient mental health services is a significant community concern and we are right there with you in understanding the behavioral health challenges of our community. Bozeman Health is committed to remaining in this work, including working with community partners and members, to ensure we are a collaborative leader in building a future that helps improve the health and wellness of all people.

We welcome your feedback at communityconnections@bozemanhealth.org.

Dr. Mark Williams is chief physician officer of Bozeman Health.

Diane Patterson, MN, MPH, is chief nursing officer of Bozeman Health.

Maureen Womack is system director, behavioral health, of Bozeman Health.

Submitted to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle as a guest column.

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