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Published on September 06, 2018

Helmsley Charitable Trust commits $3M to establish Montana’s first Psychiatry Residency at Billings Clinic 

Billings, MT— For decades, three states – Montana, Wyoming and Alaska – have consistently reported suicide rates that are, or are among, the highest in the country. These are also the only states without residency programs to train psychiatrists. Rural areas in Montana and throughout the region face a mental health crisis due to high suicide rates, isolation and a lack of mental health care resources and providers.

Considering these needs and with the support of a $3 million grant awarded by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Billings Clinic today announced the creation of Montana’s first-ever psychiatry residency program. Called the Montana Track at Billings Clinic, this program will be a regional track of the University of Washington Psychiatry Residency Training Program. The significant financial support awarded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust will help to establish this vital psychiatry residency and cover operational costs of the program over its first three years.

“This is a transformational effort that will bring much needed mental health resources to our region while training the next generation of highly-skilled psychiatrists,” said Billings Clinic CEO Randall Gibb, MD. “This would not be possible without the generous support and shared commitment to rural health care of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. Together, we will continue to strengthen mental health care in our region in order to meet the needs of our most vulnerable populations.”

Through its Rural Healthcare Program, the Helmsley Charitable Trust works to improve access to and quality of care throughout Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota and Iowa. Working closely with nonprofit partners such as Billings Clinic, the program invests in projects that improve health care delivery and strengthen the health care workforce. These projects use information technologies to connect rural populations to specialty medical care, bring the latest medical therapies to patients in remote areas, provide state-of-the-art training for rural hospitals and EMS personnel, and foster incentives for healthcare personnel to train and serve in rural areas.

“As is evidenced by our significant historical support of Billings Clinic’s efforts to improve behavioral healthcare in Montana, we recognize the critical need,” said Walter Panzirer, a Trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “The progressive and aggressive work that Billings Clinic is doing in this area is making a difference and the residency program is another momentous step forward.”

The new, four-year residency will provide a hands-on training experience to three hand-picked residents with a strong desire to serve in rural areas per year, and a total of 12 residents across all four years of the residency curriculum. After completing medical school, residents will spend their first two years in Seattle, Washington, and complete the final two years practicing at Billings Clinic.

“The partnership that we have developed with Billings Clinic presents an ongoing opportunity to save and improve the lives of people living in Montana,” said Eric Kurtz, Ph.D. Interim Program Director for Helmsley’s Rural Healthcare Program. “The psychiatry residency program is another link in this innovative chain we are building together.”

Billings Clinic psychiatrist Julie Kelso, MD, will serve as program director. Through the residency, psychiatrists will train to become change agents in the rural communities they serve by uncovering and nurturing their passions, teaching evidence-based clinical skills and inspiring innovative approaches to closing gaps in community-based systems of mental health care.

Residents will be integrated into Billings Clinic Psychiatric Services, which includes Montana’s largest outpatient psychiatric practice, a 44-bed inpatient psychiatric unit serving children and adults, and the state’s most comprehensive behavioral health team made up of 12 psychiatrists, five nurse practitioners and one physician assistant.

Billings Clinic psychiatry programs and resources available to residents include Project ECHO Billings Clinic, which provides tele-mentoring and teaching support across the state; the Eastern Montana Telemedicine Network, based at Billings Clinic and one of the country’s first providers of telepsychiatry services; interventional psychiatry; and the new Psychiatric Stabilization Unit, an innovative unit designed to get patients in psychiatric crisis out of the Emergency Department and into an outpatient setting that provides access to psychiatric assessment and treatment services within 24 hours.

“The University of Washington Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences is delighted and honored to partner with the Helmsley Trust and the Billings Clinic Foundation on a new Psychiatry Residency Track at the Billings Clinic that will train psychiatrists for Montana,” said Dr. Deborah Cowley, of the University of Washing Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “Our Department is dedicated to improving the health of the public and increasing access to high quality behavioral health care across our region.  We know that we share this mission with the Billings Clinic and the Helmsley Trust and we are excited to work together on this new educational program.”  

The psychiatry residency is the culmination of a statewide effort that began in 2014 when the Montana Healthcare Foundation awarded Billings Clinic a $50,000 planning grant to study the feasibility of a psychiatric residency program. This work eventually pulled together a diverse group of interested people and organizations from across Montana to successfully work with the 2017 Montana Legislature on the approval of increased graduate medical education funding, a portion of which is being allocated to the residency. That group includes Rep. Don Jones, Sen. Al Olszewski, Sen. Roger Webb and all of the Yellowstone County legislative delegation, Dick Brown and Bob Olson of the Montana Hospital Association, the Montana Medical Association, Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian and the Montana Graduate Medical Education Council.

The residency will begin interviewing potential residents in the fall of 2018, start matching psychiatrists in early 2019 and will bring in its first class the following summer. For more information, visit www.uwmtpsychtrack.org.

 

ABOUT THE HELMSLEY CHARITABLE TRUST 

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $2 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. Helmsley’s Rural Healthcare Program funds innovative projects that use information technologies to connect rural patients to emergency medical care, bring the latest medical therapies to patients in remote areas, and provide state-of-the-art training for rural hospitals and EMS personnel. To date, this program has awarded more than $376 million to organizations and initiatives in the upper Midwest states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa, and Montana. For more information on Helmsley and its programs, visit www.helmsleytrust.org.

 

ABOUT BILLINGS CLINIC 

Billings Clinic is Montana’s largest health system, serving Montana, Wyoming and the western Dakotas. A not-for-profit organization led by a physician CEO, Billings Clinic is governed by a board of community members, nurses and physicians. At its core, Billings Clinic is a physician-led, integrated multispecialty group practice with a 304-bed hospital and Level II trauma center. Billings Clinic has more than 4,200 employees, including 450 physicians and advanced practitioners offering more than 50 specialties. Billings Clinic is the first Magnet-designated health care organization in Montana and a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network. More information can be found at www.billingsclinic.com

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