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Providers Soon To Benefit from Pediatric Mental Health Program

Jackie Yamanaka/YPR

Governor Steve Bullock helped launch a new partnership to help the region’s primary care providers have access to psychiatrists who specialize in treating children and youth. 

The new program will use the existing video-based telemedicine platform based at Billings Clinic. Project ECHO already provides peer-to-peer support among providers, regardless where they work.

Dr. Eric Arzubi, who specializes in child psychiatry and is helping lead this effort, said the new Montana Access to Pediatric Psychiatry Network, or MAPP-Net, is based on a model already available in some 20 states.

Dr. Arzubi said at its core this program will provide support to primary care providers of these children.

“70% of all anti-depressants are prescribed by primary care providers,” he said. “So we’re never going to have enough psychiatrists to be out there, we’re certainly not going to have enough child psychiatrists so how can we support primary care on the front lines.”

Dr. Arzubi said it will through leveraging the small but knowledgeable group of child psychiatrists in the state and making them readily available to consult with providers on the ground to go over treatment plans. He said that will allow many patients to get treatment in their home communities.

That is welcome news to Parker Powell, the CEO of Glendive Medical Center. He said the northeastern Montana community is fortunate to have one full-time practicing psychiatrist, “who’s not a child psychiatrist. But if you drew a 200 mile radius around Glendive - basically Billings to Bismark, ND - she is the only psychiatrist in that area.”

Powell said this new program will help fill that gap.

MAPP-Net is being launched with the help of just over $2 million in federal funding. It will be administered by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and delivered by Billings Clinic.

Governor Steve Bullock praised the public-private collaboration that’s breaking down the geographic divide that’s often a barrier to mental health care.

“Two of the leading risk factors for youth suicide are social isolation and undiagnosed and untreated mental illness,” said Bullock. “Statistics are certainly staggering, but always we have to remember behind statistics and percentages are real people.”

Bullock said Montana’s children need to know adults are looking out for them and that they are working to get them the help they need.