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Assessment pins mental wellness as a primary Yellowstone County health need

John Felton standing behind podium, and speaking in front of people.
Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio
Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton speaks about assessment results at the Billings Public Library.

A new health assessment of Yellowstone County residents identifies mental health as a top need.

Billings Clinic, the Rehabilitation Hospital of Montana, RiverStone Health and St. Vincent Healthcare published the county’s sixth community needs assessment since 2005 on Wednesday.

County Health Officer John Felton said access to psychiatry remains an active barrier that medical centers are working to combat.

“Billings Clinic is now operating a psychiatry residency in conjunction with the University of Washington," he said during a presentation Wednesday. "Also, all of our primary care programs are getting more extensive in the sense of integrated behavioral health.

"So, it’s really been building mental health resources for all people.”

Montana in 2020 ranked third for the highest suicide rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After mental health, the assessment shows substance abuse, access to health care services and a combination of physical activity, nutrition and weight at the top of Yellowstone County health priorities.

The participating health clinics plan to develop an improvement plan this spring based on the assessment’s results.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.