Telepsychiatry partnership adds to robust mental health care offerings

St. Peter's Health Logo on green background

June 21, 2021

St. Peter’s continues to invest in a wide range of services, resources, caregivers and providers as part of a commitment to provide the right type of mental health care, in the right place and at the right time.

Among the many St. Peter’s services that help address mental health issues in our community is the St. Peter’s Behavioral Health Unit, which serves adults over 18 and includes the only geriatric inpatient program in Montana. There are also growing outpatient care options available in the psychiatry clinic, which includes psychiatrists Drs. Bridgid Crowley, Andrea Mow and Mark Mozer. Dr. Kaile Ross joined that clinic in 2020 as a clinical psychologist.

Thanks to a focus on early detection, St. Peter's primary care providers are completing critical mental health screenings for patients at twice the national rate. Plus, over the past four years, St. Peter's has hired four new licensed behavioral health professionals who provide services including short-term mental health care to clinic patients. 

The latest service was announced in March when St. Peter’s became the first health system in Montana to offer telepsychiatry services for certain groups experiencing a mental health crisis, including for youth in the Emergency Department and pediatric unit, as well as adults and youth in the community setting. This program is in partnership with Billings-based Frontier Psychiatry.

“Telepsychiatry gives our mental health professionals, nurses and physicians immediate access to highly skilled psychiatrists, so we can deliver high quality care to patients in the midst of a mental health crisis,” said St. Peter’s Senior Inpatient Nursing Director Kari Koehler, MSN, RN.

On-call psychiatrists support St. Peter’s clinicians caring for patients with behavioral health needs in the emergency department, pediatric unit and Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT).

Frontier is Montana’s largest and most comprehensive all-virtual psychiatry practice. The virtual platform allows care to be delivered in places it wasn’t available before. Immediate access is key for patients experiencing mental health crisis, said Dr. Eric Arzubi, Frontier’s chief executive officer.

“What we’re able to do is provide care right away. For about 40 years, Montana has been posting the country’s worst suicide statistics. It’s clear that relying solely on old ways of delivering mental health services doesn’t work," said Dr. Eric Arzubi, CEO, Frontier Psychiatry. 

For the MCRT, a group of mental health professionals that work closely with law enforcement to respond to behavioral health crises in the community, this real-time access elevates the care that people experiencing a crisis can receive outside of a hospital, as well as reduces emergency department visits and detention center admissions.

In the hospital’s emergency department and pediatric unit, the program builds on an existing partnership between St. Peter’s and Intermountain to provide counseling services for hospitalized pediatric patients.

The program is funded by Lewis and Clark County and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. The Montana Mental Health Trust provided critical seed funding to make the service possible.