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Bozeman Health Planning Inpatient Psychiatric Unit At Deaconess Hospital

A stock image of a doctor wearing a stethoscope.

To address growing mental health needs, Bozeman Health plans to add an inpatient psychiatric unit to Deaconess Hospital.

The nonprofit Bozeman Health system will renovate an existing part of Deaconess Hospital to create an inpatient unit with 12 beds. The system’s board of directors approved a $7 million capital investment that will go toward the project.

Inpatient psychiatric care in a hospital setting is not currently available in Gallatin County. That means people experiencing a mental health crisis are often sent to hospitals or clinics in Billings, Missoula or Helena for treatment.

Dr. Anne Thomas is a psychiatrist and the Medical Director of Behavioral Health at Bozeman Health. She says the new unit will make it possible for adults to receive psychiatric care closer to home.

“Now we’ll be able to provide it here in Bozeman, so people won’t have to leave their home, leave their loved ones, their support, their community," Thomas says. "I think it actually will be transformative in terms of the psychiatric care that we can provide to this community."

The decision to add inpatient psychiatric care follows pressure from residents and medical professionals, some of whom marched in front of Deaconess Hospital earlier this year asking for inpatient beds.

Dr. Colette Kirchhoff was part of that group. Twelve inpatient beds is not up to national standards of 50 per 100,000 residents, she says, but it’s progress.

“This will help to decrease stigma as well because someone who has mental illness shouldn’t have to go in a police car to another community to get care," she says. "They will stay here. There will be better continuity; there will be better follow up."

According to Kaiser Health News, about 13 people per month in Bozeman Health’s coverage area — which includes Gallatin, Park and Madison counties — are sent to behavioral health units in other parts of Montana to receive care.

The inpatient psychiatric unit at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital is expected to be completed in mid-2023.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.