Western Montana Mental Health returning to Libby

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Representatives from Western Montana Mental Health Center told the Lincoln County Commissioners on May 8 that they want to begin bringing services back to Lincoln County.

Abby Harnett, area director with Western Montana, said that they currently have a prevention specialist working in the community, and she will be working out of Western Montana’s Libby location within weeks.

“We’re getting the building ready to open again,” Harnett said.

Harnett said that the one employee is working with substance abuse prevention for children from ages to 9 to 15.

“Her job is to work in the community to provide prevention efforts specifically to community members,” Harnett said.

Harnett said they expect to bring on “a couple more” prevention specialists within the next two weeks, and they will focus on, “both youth and adult issues.”

Harnett said that they are hoping to have additional staff and programs in place within the next six months. She estimated it will be, “within the next couple months” that they will be providing direct mental health services.

“It will look different. We will not have all of the same programs, but we will have specific programs to address the needs in the community,” she said.

We are assessing where the need is, specifically, so that we can then tailor our programs to address the needs of our community members and those with severe mental illness,” she said.

Harnett said that state budget cuts hit Western Montana’s Libby location hard before they left, because they relied heavily on case management services.

“We’re just really wanting to make sure that, as we come back into the community, we are providing the community what they need,” she said.

During the meeting with the commissioners, company representatives said that, while they are developing partnerships in the community, they are not currently working with Cabinet Peaks Medical Center.

Anita Ivankovig, chief operations officer for Cabinet Peaks, said that the hospital needs crisis intervention, which Western Montana is not currently able to provide.

Instead, Cabinet Peaks has partnered with a telepsychiatry company called Insight, she said.

The service will allow doctors, such as in the emergency room, to request an on-demand evaluation of a patient by a licensed psychiatrist, using the hospital’s existing video conferencing hardware, she said.

The service will not be for ongoing treatment, she said.

It is meant to help the hospital refer a patient to long term care.

Ivankovig said it will be a few more months before the hospital can implement the service.

Harnett said that Western Montana is eager to get back to work in Libby.

“I just really want the community of Libby to know that we’re really excited to be back in the community,” Harnett said. “And we are dedicated and committed to rebuilding our programs and services, and offering solid mental health and substance abuse treatment services for our residents.”

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