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Bozeman Health Working to Bolster Crisis Services in Gallatin County

Corporate news | Thursday, November 18, 2021

Contact: Lauren Brendel, M.S.

As Southwest Montana’s health care provider of choice, Bozeman Health has been meeting the health care needs of the communities we serve for 110 years. While we have been more actively engaged in assessing and investing in behavioral health care since 2017, our involvement in behavioral health and crisis services extends back even further.

Throughout the past few years, as community members and as a health system, Bozeman Health has worked with many partners and providers to improve and stabilize needed behavioral health services in Southwest Montana. Despite the efforts of many, crisis stabilization services in Gallatin County continue to deteriorate. As a result, Bozeman Health has been working on multiple strategies to enhance behavioral health care in our community, including our plans (shared in February 2021) to elevate crisis care services within the emergency department at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital to bolster lacking community services. Reliable crisis services are paramount to the success of the broader behavioral health continuum, including our forthcoming inpatient psychiatric unit at Deaconess Hospital.

We understand and honor Gallatin County’s obligation to ensure that appropriate care is given to individuals requiring emergency detention. Due to unreliable availability of involuntary behavioral health services at the Gallatin Mental Health Center, Bozeman Health care team members have made adjustments in our emergency department to meet community need. We know our existing investment to optimize clinical space to uniquely care for patients in crisis and keep them safe in our emergency department will ensure needed care is available for our community in the short-term, while longer-term solutions are brought forward to support dependable crisis care services in the region.

The second piece of our long-term vision to stabilize crisis care services was to purchase back the Gallatin Mental Health Center campus from Western Montana Mental Health Center (WMMHC). In 2008, Bozeman Health donated land to WMMHC to ensure Southwest Montana had access to reliable crisis care services, and for more than 10 years, we have subsidized operational costs of WMMHC’s Gallatin Mental Health Center and Hope House with annual contributions upwards of $300,000. Our land donation agreement with WMMHC included provisions requiring the property to be used for behavioral health services and also allowed Bozeman Health to re-purchase the land if WMMHC wished to sell it. Given the urgent need for sustainable crisis care services in Gallatin County that patients, families, and community providers can rely upon, Bozeman Health recently offered to re-purchase the land and buildings from WMMHC. We recognize that crisis services in this community have been underperforming, have not realized their full potential for years, and are an essential part of the behavioral health care continuum. Unfortunately, our purchase offer was declined.

Bozeman Health retains a right of first refusal for WMMHC’s property; if WMMHC wishes to sell the property in the future, Bozeman Health may exercise its purchase option to acquire the property. We firmly believe that while the WMMHC facilities are not properly designed to provide safe involuntary care, the campus holds promise as a long-term and integral piece of the care continuum; community mental health services are vitally needed in our community. While we remain in open dialogue with WMMHC, as a result of the declination of our purchase offer, Bozeman Health is moving forward with undertaking significant and needed work to rebuild sustaining, high quality, and high value crisis services.

“High-performing crisis services are an essential part of the behavioral health care continuum,” shared John Hill, Bozeman Health president and CEO. “Patients and their families, the communities of Southwest Montana, and our community providers and stakeholders deserve better and our mission calls us to advance innovative solutions, partner with national leaders, and grow through what we have collectively learned over the past ten years in service to the patients and families who are relying on all of us to lead.”

The next piece of Bozeman Health’s long-term vision is to add a crisis stabilization center on the Deaconess Hospital campus to ensure safe, dependable, and healing care is given to those in any behavioral health crisis or situation. Having reliable, high quality crisis services is not only what our community, patients, their families, and our care providers deserve, it is also vital to the success of our forthcoming inpatient psychiatric unit. Without quality crisis care services, patients with acute care needs will continue their revolving door experience—at great cost to their health, their families, and community support systems. As our support for crisis care services and other plans are brought to fruition, we look forward to sharing more details in the coming months.

Bozeman Health is committed to the health and well-being of all individuals. We know that healthy individuals build a strong community and that a caring and dedicated health system is essential to providing the whole continuum of care for the benefit of all. It remains our pleasure to partner with other behavioral health providers and community stakeholders, and we look forward to ensuring access to care is available for everyone who needs it.