Montana received a $263,000 federal grant to launch a new package of services to adolescents and young adults suffering from their first psychotic episode.
Research by the National Institute of Mental Health has found young adults, if left untreated for their psychosis, are more likely to develop serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia.
“Psychosis is experiencing hallucinations, hearing voices, seeing things other people can’t see or hear,” says Dr. Eric Arzubi, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Billings Clinic. He specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry. “It’s also paranoia. It’s feeling like being watched when people aren’t truly watching you or having delusions.”
Dr. Arzubi says psychosis can be caused by medications, anxiety brought on early in childhood, or schizophrenia.
He says national estimates are that about 1% of a population will be diagnosed with schizophrenia in a year.
“Right now we don’t have the evidence-based, best practice to treat those folks in MT,” he says. Dr. Arzubi says the current method of treating young patients in Montana is limited to medication.
The new Montana program will used an evidence-based model created from a recent federal study called Recovery after an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE). Research from the RAISE study showed better outcomes when a team of professionals provide services “wrapped around” the work of a psychiatrist.
“So what we’re going to be doing with this grant is look at a corridor somewhere around Billings to Bozeman, a population of around 250,000 people,” Dr. Arzubi says. “If we’re lucky, we can start giving access to those 2500 people who will be struggling with schizophrenia to best practices in terms of treatment.”
He says Dr. Ana Stan, a psychiatrist with Livingston Healthcare, is taking the lead for the team of professionals from Billings Clinic, the South Central Montana Mental Health Center, and NAMI Montana.
Dr. Stan is an expert in the treatment of psychosis and directed a similar team of professionals in Texas.
Carl Eby, the associate director of the Mental Health Center (MHC) in Billings, says his organization already has a group home, a recovery/day treatment center, traditional outpatient therapy, and psychiatric acute crisis services but is limited to only 1 psychiatrist.
“We’ve got quite an organization that can provide that continuum of services," Eby says. “Billings Clinic is an incredible organization. They have everything we don’t and we have everything they don’t.”
Eby says NAMI Montana provides another critical component - education, “and we often neglect education. We’re so focused on treatment.”
Besides treatment, this team will also help the patient find housing, employment, or if the patient is still in school to help them remain in school. The team is also available to help the patient’s family.
Eby praises the timing of the grant. The 2015 Montana Legislature and the Bullock Administration initiated the emphasis on community based mental health services.
Bullock announced the grant award at Billings Clinic. He says he’s asking the 2017 Legislature to continue to invest in this area, as well as in youth suicide prevention.
“It’s certainly my goal to ensure that Montanans with mental health needs are met in the least restrictive environment and in the most cost effective way possible,” Bullock says. “And I think we can do that by continuing to build on our recent progress and by looking forward to what more we can do in our communities to address mental health needs.”
Bullock says this pro-active grant helps reach people early, “before they are in crisis and before their mental illness can overwhelm them and disrupt their lives.”
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, in collaboration of NAMI Montana, secured the grant. The services are now available.