A Mental Health Plan for Malta

By Uken, Cindy | The Billings Gazette (Billings, MT), June 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

A Mental Health Plan for Malta


Uken, Cindy, The Billings Gazette (Billings, MT)


Access to mental health care is limited in Malta and the surrounding rural area, mirroring the mental health picture across the state.

To help address the shortage, Phillips County Hospital, in partnership with the Center for Rural Psychology and Wheaton College in Illinois, applied for and received an $85,000 grant to determine the need for mental health services in Phillips County.

The grant is made possible by the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable.

The grant also will be used to determine the availability of economic and professional resources to support the mental health services.

"It is becoming more apparent that we are going to need more of a strategic plan," said Ward VanWichen, CEO of Phillips County Hospital and Family Health Clinic.

The shortage of mental health professionals and resources is a problem statewide.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Montana has estimated that as many as 49,212 adults suffered from a serious mental illness in 2002, the most recent data available.

As of April 6 there were 153 psychiatrists with active physician licenses in Montana. Of those, 98 are in Montana communities. The remaining 55 have their primary residence in another state.

Most mental health professionals agree that's not enough to meet the needs of the state's residents needing psychiatric care and access to the medications that could stabilize-their conditions.

The push for a strategic plan in Malta comes as some mental health services have left. Mental health providers from Glasgow and Havre have been traveling to Malta, a community of about 2,120, to help meet the mental health demands. Volunteers have also played a role in trying to help plug some of the holes. …

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