Beyond the Doors
A look inside mental health care at Billings Clinic.
There is a silent health crisis in our community. It affects individuals and families without regard to age, gender, ethnicity, race, culture, or economic circumstance. For some, this crisis causes only a ripple of disruption, but for others, it is a heart-wrenching illness with devastating consequences. The crisis is mental illness and no one is immune. Studies show that nearly 50% of us will suffer from mental health problems at some point in our lives.
Every day, we see this crisis play out beyond the doors of our Emergency Department, inpatient psychiatric hospital, and behavioral health offices.
For decades, Billings Clinic has been at the forefront of our state’s mental health care. Over the course of any given year, Billings Clinic’s psychiatric department – the largest in our region – cares for over 50,000 patients, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In an effort to demystify what lies beyond the doors of the spaces within which we deliver psychiatric services, we’d like to introduce you to care providers who are on the front line of this illness. See through their eyes as they take you beyond the doors to a new level of understanding. Together, with a community commitment to de-stigmatize mental health and find solutions that can move the dial for our entire state – we can continue to bring hope and renewed strength to those struggling with mental illness.
Your gift gives hope to thousands of Montanans who suffer from mental illness.
This August, Billings Clinic Foundation combines the fundraising power of the Classic and the generosity of our community as we strive to provide high quality mental health care to our community and region.
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Eric Arzubi, MD
Chair of Psychiatric Services
I came to Montana two years ago to practice child and adolescent psychiatry, because I realized that this is the epicenter of the mental health crisis. We are #1 in suicides per capita in the country. Mental health is the #1 cause of medical disability. But I didn’t come here out of pity. I came here because we have incredible people and organizations working on these issues, and we have an opportunity to really make a difference.
I’m so proud of the team we have at Billings Clinic. They are caring, compassionate, and innovative. Our team has found new ways to give patients hope through therapies and care delivery models that are just catching on across the country. But to continue our work, we must have the community’s support. Mental health is a community issue. Mental health is everyone’s problem.
Art Thompson, LCPC
Youth Inpatient Psychiatric Unit
I love helping people. Growing up, I was a bit of an introvert. I spent a lot of time watching people, trying to figure them out. I realized that everyone hides their sadness and challenges. I went into mental health care, because I want to help people get to the truth of what they are thinking and feeling.
I enjoy working with children. They are so resilient and difficult at the same time. I don’t treat my patients as if they are ill. I treat them as I do my own children, doing everything I can to help give them the tools to succeed. I listen and I share experiences; helping them latch onto the good aspects of their life. Every child has talent and something that makes them special.
I’ll never forget one of my toughest young patients. He was angry all the time and acting out, through no fault of his own. I spent a lot of time with him and learned a lot through the process. Slowly he turned his behaviors around and was able to contribute a lot to the community we have here in the Billings Clinic youth inpatient unit. I learn from my patients just as much as they learn from me. Everyone is an individual and no two children are exactly the same. When I get to see them go out into the world with an improved attitude, new perspective and tools to build on, I know that what I’m doing is making a difference.
Paul Tutokey, RN
Inpatient Psychiatric Unit
I started my health care career in emergency medicine. A friend of mine told me that I’d be good in psychiatry. I wasn’t sure at first. Once I took a tour and decided to move to the psychiatric inpatient unit, it stuck with me. You can really see the changes that you’re making in someone’s life, often within the first day they are here.
Our patients are people like you and me, who have had some major stressor in their life. They’re missing that coping skill and need a little help to get back on their feet. It’s not always an easy job. It’s hard to see the pain and anger that people are facing. You have to immerse yourself in what they are thinking or feeling in order to gain trust. And we know that no matter how a person is acting or feeling when they first come in, there is a wonderful person underneath and we always get to meet them.
I do wish that, even today, there wasn’t such a stigma toward psychiatry. I want people to know that we treat wonderful individuals who just need a little help.
Jennifer Wingerter, LCPC
Emergency Department Psychiatric Assessment Clinician
When I first started in emergency psychiatric services, I said I’d stay for a year. That was six years ago.
I care for patients experiencing a mental health crisis who come to the Emergency Room for help. As part of the Psychiatric Assessment Clinician (PAC) team, I evaluate the level of care they need by assessing their history and current mental state. I’ve seen patients as young as 2 years old all the way to 100 years old. Sometimes patients need to be admitted to our inpatient psychiatric hospital and other times we provide a referral for services in the community. There is so much need in our community and Billings Clinic provides services that no one else can.
Our team works nonstop 24/7. I see patients at their worst. Good people struggling with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or severe psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia.
I’ve always known that I want to help people who are hurting. Working in the emergency department has opened my eyes to the mental health crisis and given me an understanding of what people are going through.
The greatest need I see in mental health services is to move the PAC services out of the emergency department by adding a Psychiatric Evaluation & Stabilization Unit. The unit will allow patients to get treatment more quickly in a less stressful, more comforting environment. I also see the need for the community to get involved. We all need to have compassion and understanding for people who are struggling.
Tam Miller, RN
Inpatient Psychiatric Unit
Every day we discharge 7 or 8 people, and I come back the next day and 7 or 8 new people are coming in. Every day is different. People from every walk of life end up staying with us in the psychiatric unit. We have patients we see once and we have others who need to be hospitalized more often because they don’t have outside support. We are their support.
We get to spend a lot of quality time with patients. If someone needs an hour, because they are having a hard time emotionally, I give them an hour of my time. It’s surprising to me sometimes how open patients are when they talk to me. It really helps people to know that someone is listening and cares.
Patients are sometimes nervous or embarrassed when they come in, because they’ve seen how TV portrays a psychiatric center and mental health care. Once they settle in they realize, that it’s just a relaxing setting with caring staff and people who just need some help for a little while. I could be here, anyone could be here.
When I first started working in inpatient psychiatry, I remember thinking ‘this is what work should feel like.’ It’s been the same ever since.
I feel like we make a difference, but I worry about access to mental health. I worry that there isn’t enough resources. That there is always more we can do to make sure that everyone who needs help gets help.
In case of Psychiatric Emergency or Crisis
Crisis Text Line
Text START to 741-741
orYellowstone Youth Crisis Network