MISSOULA — While Providence Health Services in Missoula has long focused on treating inpatient adolescents for mental and behavioral health issues, capacity was limited and those needing treatment were often directed to larger facilities.
That left families and providers frustrated, according to Joyce Dombrouski, president and CEO of Providence Health Services of Montana.
“Across time, we could see this was not meeting the community’s needs,” she said. “We had to divert young adolescence away from Missoula to get appropriate care, and that didn’t feel right.”
Providence on Tuesday announced the completion of a new Adolescent Inpatient Psychiatric Unit that can now accommodate 14 patients at the N. Orange Street facility.
The new unit allows the facility to stabilize patients between the ages of 12 and 17, and work with their families to assess any mental health needs, provide intervention and build a plan for care.
“It’s a long-standing, unmet need,” said Dombrouski. “Ideally, if you can get at individuals before they get into crisis, get them into counseling and outpatient therapy, that’s absolutely perfect. But adolescents end up in crisis, and we want to be able to care for them closest to home.”
The facility’s design provides patients with a therapeutic, flexible and secure environment. Furnishings within the unit are designed for safe behavioral health.
Dombrouski said time in the unit allows patients an opportunity to learn healthy strategies to cope with symptoms associated with depression, anxiety and other psychiatric diagnoses.
“This new unit has mostly single rooms with the ability to cut a room in half. It gives us the flexibility to provide better care than we’ve been able to in the past,” she said. “We’re on what we call diversion for adolescence, probably six out of seven days a week. This 14-bed unit will triple our capacity.”
Mental and behavioral health care in Missoula has received more attention from city and county officials as well. Both governments are investing in a new mobile crisis unit, which is expected to begin operating this year on a trial basis.
Dombrouski said the unit, if successful, could reduce the number of patients the hospital sees in the emergency room. The hospital will offer the mobile crisis team guidance as the community works to make the new model successful.
“The loose end in Missoula in my opinion is children under 12, and we’re not trying to solve that problem right now,” Dombrouski said. “Always, we just don’t have enough funding in a general way to do what we think we need to do.
“But I don’t want to complain about it. We got this grant for the crisis unit. Medicaid expansion has allowed us to really care for our behavior health patients better. We’ve made progress on the funding side, but it’s always a challenge.”
Providence and several other Montana hospitals, including Community Medical Center in Missoula and Shodair Hospital in Helena are working more closely together in an effort to close the gap in mental and behavioral health care.
When treating children under 12, Dombrouski said, Providence works closely with Shodair. Community also provides outpatient programming.
“I think we’re in a good place in terms of talking about collaborating and not competing and doing what we call ward hand-off by making sure patients and their family get handed off to that next level of care,” she said. “There’s just no reason to be competitive and not share appropriate information to move people to a better or less restrictive place they need to be.”