Big boost for behavioral health services

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The demand for behavioral health services in northern Idaho far exceeds the services available.

Options are limited for residents who need treatment for substance use disorders and mental health issues and many people are missing out on desperately needed treatment, the Panhandle Health District Director said. , Don Duffy.

“We struggle to have enough mental health resources in our community,” Duffy said. “Patients can have a three to six month waiting period before they can see a mental health professional and that’s tragic.”

The North Idaho Crisis Center, a partnership comprised of Kootenai Health, Panhandle Health District, and Heritage Health, serves men and women in all 10 northern Idaho counties who need immediate help defusing crisis situations from behavioral health. Services include suicide prevention, safety planning and crisis counselling. This is a short term facility and people can stay for up to 24 hours. Typically, patients who visit the crisis center are then referred for follow-up treatment with a mental health professional in the community.

This can be a problem due to lack of resources. Kootenai Health closed its addiction recovery center and outpatient psychiatry practice in May, citing staffing shortages and chronic underfunding.

Heritage Health has struggled to meet increased demand due to several factors, CEO Mike Baker said.

“Like everyone else, we’re having trouble hiring counselors and therapists due to the housing market and employment situation in northern Idaho,” Baker said. “Across our different service lines, we have wait lists of six months or more for patients to be seen by a mental health professional. This is why our teams have worked so hard.

Baker is optimistic that things will improve.

“There’s light coming through the dark,” Baker said. “We will be able to turn the tide.

Baker’s optimism stems in part from the fact that Heritage Health received a $4 million federal grant to become a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. .

Heritage Health is one of three community health centers in Idaho to receive this grant, with the goal of establishing Idaho’s first community behavioral health clinics.

“This funding will allow us to hire more providers and help people who desperately need treatment,” Baker said. “We are so excited. It will change people’s lives for the better and it is at the heart of our mission.

“The goal of a CCBHC is to increase access to quality, evidence-based behavioral health services of all kinds, including crisis response, medication management, therapy services, substance use disorder treatment and case management,” said Dr. David Atkins, vice president of medical services. Services. “As we streamline access to our existing services, we plan to expand reach and grow our workforce to meet community needs.

“In the CCBHC model, there are front-end evaluators who can determine what services are needed, as well as built-in medical providers to rule out medical causes of behavioral health issues. Case managers are then available to help clients overcome barriers to care, helping them access the extensive behavioral health services available at Heritage Health. Coordination of care, both within the heritage and in the community, will maximize the level of care provided and lead to better outcomes overall.

In addition to the four-year grant, Heritage Health merged with Big Lake Psychological Services in late September. This enables Heritage Health to offer neurobehavioral services to area children, adolescents and adults, with a particular focus on developmental disabilities. The Neurobehavioral Services office is located at 1809 E. Sherman Ave. in Coeur d’Alene.

“Parents looking for resources to help their children haven’t had many options,” said Heather Rehil-Crest, a psychologist who founded Big Lake. “I am thrilled to be part of the Heritage Health team.”

Heritage Health also recently moved its Psychiatric Services Clinic to 1038 Northwest Blvd., Coeur d’Alene as part of its growing behavioral health team to meet growing demand. Keelin Hines, a nurse practitioner who was recently hired to work in the Department of Psychiatric Services, said she has a passion for helping people with mental health issues.

“It’s a very interesting area of ​​medicine,” Hines said. “There is a lot of listening in this patient population. They just want to be heard. I want to help them with all their me. This includes diet and exercise. They may feel better. We just have to serve them as a complete person.

Planned improvements will not solve mental health issues across the region and state. Idaho lacks long-term care facilities for people dealing with addiction and mental health issues. There are private assisted living facilities for people with long-term mental disorders, but these also have long waiting lists to enter and they are expensive.

The social stigma associated with mental illness is also a major issue, said Panhandle Health District Director Don Duffy.

“By working together, we can reduce the stigma associated with mental health treatment and save lives,” Duffy said. “The impressive work of Heritage Health and other local providers makes it clear that you are not alone in your fight against mental illness.”


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Marc Stewart is employed as a content strategist at Heritage Health in Coeur d’Alene.

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