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Bozeman Health’s enduring commitment to behavioral health

Corporate news | Thursday, September 22, 2022

Submitted to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle as a guest column., and was pinted in the September 22, 2022 issue.

Written by: Diane Patterson, chief nursing officer; Dr. Anne Thomas, behavioral health medical director; Nicole Madden, behavioral health system director

As leaders of Bozeman Health’s behavioral health clinical services, we want to share an update on the work that your locally owned and governed non-profit health system is doing to support the mental health needs of Southwest Montana.

Bozeman Health has stepped up and leaned in to deliver mental health services in our region. We have worked with a wide alliance of community partners to determine the gaps, outline the behavioral health continuum of care, and find immediate solutions. Bozeman Health has demonstrated, and our care teams live each day, our enduring commitment to meet the behavioral health needs of our community. We are committed to providing large portions of the behavioral health continuum, including:

  • Integrated Behavioral Health in our clinics;
  • Outpatient psychiatry;
  • Crisis stabilization in our Psychiatric Emergency Services (PES) unit; and
  • Inpatient psychiatry and

Our PES and inpatient facilities are still under design and construction. However, that has not delayed us from providing comprehensive crisis care in our Deaconess Hospital emergency department thanks to our fully staffed PES team (facilities fully operational this December). Work on our specialty 12-bed psych unit continues with completion anticipated for spring 2024.

Bozeman Health supports the full spectrum of behavioral health with our community partners who specialize in the many services required to provide a robust and sustainable continuum of care in Southwest Montana. As we have consistently shared, no single entity can sustain the full behavioral health continuum that our community deserves – we must work in partnership with community providers to bring forward a system that provides care in the safest and least restrictive setting possible.

Bozeman Health has identified our Spanish Peaks Plaza building on North 19th as the only location that could be quickly renovated to create a safe facility for behavioral health patients who are proceeding through the involuntary commitment process under the direction of the County Attorney. Demolition and other preparations for the renovations to create a safe and appropriate facility for voluntary and involuntary care at this location are underway. The County opened an RFP process seeking applicants to provide specialty crisis services –Connections Health Solutions was the only responder to the County’s RFP, and we support their application. Connections is widely recognized as the national leader in crisis care, pioneering the up-to 24-hour observation model and accepting all members of the community experiencing a mental health crisis for care and treatment. Connections operates two of the largest and most studied behavioral health crisis facilities in the country and is currently serving as the mobile crisis service provider for Gallatin County in partnership with Community Health Partners.

Our emergency department is seeing so many patients in crisis that even when our PES unit is fully operational, demand will exceed capacity – this is why we are advocating for a crisis care specialist to return to our community. Bozeman Health will never turn away any patient who seeks care in our emergency room, we are fully compliant with federal law, and there is no evidence to suggest that treating mental illness away from a hospital is harmful to patient outcomes.

Bozeman Health continues to do the meaningful work it takes to consistently bring together community partners to ensure our friends, family, and neighbors have access to the care they need at the high level of quality they deserve.

We are deeply appreciative of our many community partners working to treat individuals and expand access to thoughtful and humane mental health care in Gallatin County and are redoubled in our efforts. No county in the state has this solved, and yet we are so fortunate to have so many passionate individuals, willing providers, and generous supporters to champion the innovation we must embrace to increase ease of access, improve patient outcomes, and ensure long term sustainability of our behavioral healthcare system.