MONTANA – Governor Bullock, joined by representatives from Billings Clinic, NAMI Montana, Project ECHO-University of New Mexico, Pacific Source Health Plans, and Southwest Montana Community Health Center, announced today support for a collaborative project to increase access to mental health services for Montanans in rural areas.
“Montana kids, families and communities always deserve the best health care available,” said Governor Bullock. “Here in Montana we have brought Democrats and Republicans together to improve access to healthcare services all across the state. I’m pleased to support this pilot project that will bring high-quality and affordable mental healthcare to Montanans – wherever they live.”
Under Governor Bullock’s leadership, Montana has made record investments in mental health services including crisis intervention, youth mental health and short-term patient care, and emergency detention. These investments are ensuring that our family members, coworkers, friends, and neighbors have the care they need in their communities, surrounded by friends, family, and support systems.
With unprecedented access to care transforming the lives of Montanans all across the state, there is still more work to be done. In 2015, Governor Bullock created the Governor’s Council on Healthcare Innovation, asking leaders from throughout the healthcare industry to come together in a sustained commitment to work toward better health outcomes and reduced costs in the healthcare system.
The Council has been studying ways to better integrate mental health care into primary care practices. Such integration has proven to be successful at improving health outcomes and decreasing costs in projects throughout the country, but can be a challenge to implement in a large rural state where not all communities have local mental health expertise.
As a result of thoughtful deliberations over the last year, the Council is supporting a pilot project – Integrated Behavioral Health ECHO – that will remotely connect experts in the Psychiatry Department at Billings Clinic with up to 10 doctors’ offices and health clinics in rural communities throughout the state using weekly tele-consultation clinics based on the Project ECHO model.
In these distance-based clinics, mental health experts at Billings Clinic will share their expertise on patient cases at the remote sites via mentoring, guidance, feedback, and education. This strategy has been proven to empower primary care clinicians in the remote sites by strengthening their skills and knowledge to better care for patients with common mental health diagnoses in their own communities, reducing travel costs, wait times and avoidable complications.
“Integrated Behavioral Health ECHO has the potential to transform the way in which mental health care is delivered throughout Montana. Thanks to this critical investment, Montanans may not have to travel long distances to major medical centers to receive the high quality mental health care that they deserve,” said Dr. Eric Arzubi, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Billings Clinic.