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SIDNEY HERALD Around our area SUNDAY, FEB. 3, 2019 lawmakers push legislation to address state’s mental health crisis BY SHAYLEE RAGAR LEGISLATIVE NEWS SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM When Brandi King finished a 14-month deployment with the United States Army, she returned home to Montana’s Fort Belknap Indian Reservation to heal. King carried with her the trauma she experi- enced during combat in Mosul, Iraq. She began to feel anxious, hyper- vigilant and she couldn’t sleep at night. In ru- ral Montana, mental healthcare resources can be scarce. King wasn’t able to see a counselor or support specialist, and her post-traumatic stress progressed. She became suicidal and attempted to take her own life more than once. Family and friends were supportive and wanted to help, but like anyone suffering from an illness, King needed more. “People like myself end up in the emergency room, crying out for ' help,” King said. ' It’s been more than a decade since King returned home, and the now 38-year-old is representing the inter- ests of the Fort Belknap Reservation at the Montana Legislature. As a member of the Fort Belknap Indian Com- munity Council, she’s uniquely aware of her community’s needs. King recently told her story to a room full of lawmakers and audience members in a Senate committee hearing at the Montana Capitol. She was speaking in support of Senate Bill 30, which would give Medicaid ex- pansion reimbursements to specialists certified in peer support. In an inter- view afterward, she said she felt a responsibility to share her experience. “This is just one story in 10,000,” King said. Data from the Centers for Disease Control show Montana leads the nation in death by suicide per capita, with 28.9 suicides per 100,000 people. This ranking has spurred lawmakers to try to improve mental healthcare for Mon- tanans, and a number of legislators on both sides of the aisle have introduced bills in that effort. Ideas range from providing grant money to schools for suicide prevention to allowing psychologists to pre- scribe certain medica- tions. PEER SUPPORT Sen. Jen Gross, D- Billings, is carrying SB 30, the bill that would add certified peer sup- port specialists to the list of professionals who can be reimbursed through Medicaid expansion for healthcare services. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines a peer support specialist as someone who uses personal experience with mental illness and/ or addiction combined with formal training to promote recovery and resilience in behavioral health. The idea is for someone to draw from his or her personal struggle and triumphant to help oth- ers do the same. In an interview, Gross said it’s important to emphasize that peer support is an evidence- based practice. She said specialists fill a gap in resources at a lower cost, ‘ and argued this is why they should qualify for reimbursement. “Certified peer support specialist are really criti- cal to the infrastructure of mental healthcare in the state,” Gross said. Jason McNees works as a peer support special- ist for the Helena Indian Alliance and spoke in support of the bill. He said in the past year, he’s retained 85 percent of * his clients who sign up for support services. The training for peer support specialist is similar to that of a licensed coun- selor, McNees said, and it’s meant to supplement other treatment. “We’re very successful in the service we pro- vide,” McNees said. Representatives from Billings Clinic, Montana Centers for Independent Living and the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leader Council also spoke in support at the hearing. No one spoke in opposi- tion. Matt Kuntz, executive director of Montana’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Ill- ness (NAMI), said in an interview that having a shared experience be- tween peers has proven to be really valuable in mental health care. “[Peer support] has matured to the point that it’s time to make it real,” Kuntz said. Two other bills intro- duced in the Legislature would make mental health support a part of a child’s education. YOUTH SUICIDE PREVENTION Shodair Children’s SHAYLEE RABAR I UM LEGISLATIVE NEWS SERVICE Sen. Jen Gross, D-Billings, is sponsoring a bill that would allow certified peer support specialists to be reimbursed under Medicaid expansion. Hospital in Helena has seen a 19 percent increase in admissions for inpatient mental health care since 2017. Carly Sell, a registered nurse for the psychiatric care provider, said that mental illness among ‘ children is more com- mon than people realize. “We probably all know those kids but we don’t know they’re strug- gling,” Sell said. Sell is also the pro- gram director for the hospital’s Grasslands Acute Program, one of four units that admits patients, divided by age. In total, the acute units admitted about 1,100 kids in 2018. Sell said at least 75 percent in acute units are admitted with some form of suicidal ideation. Rep. Mary Ann Dun- well, D-Helena, has in- troduced two bills aimed at preventing youth suicide, and Sell spoke in support of both. The first, House Bill 186, states that Mon- tana’s youth suicide rate is “intolerany high” at twice the rate of the na- tional average. The bill would create a student mental health screening pilot program. It would be funded by grants awarded through the Montana Office of Public Instruction. It asks for an appropriation of $1 million from the Legisla- ture’s general fund. It’s a bipartisan effort between Dunwell and co- sponsor, Rep. Joel Kraut- ter, R-Sidney. He spoke as a proponent during the bill’s hearing and said it’s an issue that has affected his eastern Montana district. “As we battle this epidemic, we must give our community partners support so we can turn this around,” Krautter said. Communities would CHARGE: APPERANCE SET IN DISTRICT COURT FOR FEB. II FROM mon Judge Luke Savage said the assault with a weapon charge was for shooting a weapon be— hind Chase Vaira’s head. The criminal mischief charge was for break- ing three windows and a door. Taylor is scheduled to make his initial apper- ance in District Court at 8:30 a.m.,on Feb. 11. ‘ Bond was set at $50,000. CD SPECIAL Dynneson thanks the Montana Highway Patrol for its assistance during the incident. He thanks the public for their pa- tience and understand- ing. be able to choose what screening programs work best for their distinct populations, as long as the programs are research-based. Its companion bill, House Bill 187, would revise laws already in place addressing youth suicide prevention. The Montana Department of Health and Human Services has a suicide prevention officer who directs prevention programming across the state. Dunwell’s second bill would have this office evaluate and award grants for suicide prevention activities, and it would appropri- ate $1.3 million from the state’s general fund for those grants. The bill’s language would require grants be prioritized for research-based prac- tices. An example of one such program is Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM). The program is used globally to encour- age young people to think about and discuss mental health issues. Montana State Uni- versity Extension is promOting the program COMMUNITY in the state and 17 Exten- sion agents are certified to teach YAM in rural schools, like Shelby, Miles City and Ronan. Colleen Murphy spoke in support of the bill as a clinical social worker in Boulder’s elemen- tary school. She said the youngest child who has expressed suicidal thoughts in her office was in third grade. “The more mental health preparation that we have, the better,” Murphy said. This bill was tabled during executive action in committee, meaning it will be on hold until committee members decide if they want to debate it on the House floor or not. PSYCHOLOGISTS AND PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS A mental healthcare- related bill still waiting for a committee hearing is Senate Bill 106. Sen. Jason Small, a Republi- can from Busby on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, is carrying the legislation that would allow clinical psychologists to pre- scribe medications. In an interview, Small said this would be “ex- tremely beneficial” to reservations, and rural Montana in general. Psychologists can prescribe prescription medications in five states, including Idaho and New Mexico. Dr. Earl Sutherland is a clinical psycholo- gist at Bighorn Valley Health Center in Hardin and was instrumental in drafting the bill. He said he can’t ever seem to hire enough people at the rural health center. “We have a critical shortage of mental health providers and ser- ‘ vices,” Sutherland said. The bill includes 12 pages of restrictions and requirements for psychologists to pre- , scribe medication, like a masters’ degree in clini- cal pharmacology and strict record-keeping mandates. It also specifies psy- chologists would only be able to prescribe “drugs or medicine customar- ily used in the diagnosis and treatment of mental or emotional disorders.” Sutherland said he would tell legislators considering this bill: “Please give us the opportunity to help our patients.” However, this type of practice also draws controversy. Kuntz said NAMI Montana would not be taking an official position on the issue because it’s torn. On one hand, it could help rural Montanans, Kuntz said. But he’s worried it could have adverse effects. “ [Therapeutic] psy- chologists are an asset themselves. They are incredibly important in Montana, and if we incentivize them to leave that practice, then who will provide it?” Kuntz said. Individual commu- nities are attempting to solve health care problems on their own while they wait for state resources. In King’s hometown; a new program called Fort Belknap Integrated Be- havioral Health, within the tribal health depart- ment, is trying to close resource gaps. At one point, the res- ervation had one person handling all calls and re- ferrals related to suicide. Now, with the formation of the new program, Fort Belknap will gain a clinical psychologist, a licensed counselor and four mental health advocates. However, that’s just the beginning to what King hopes for mental healthcare devel— opment in Montana. HEALTH CORNER With Chief Pharmacist, Fortunate Mwanaka at White Drug Pharmacy, 402 East Main in Sidney. What do you know about opioids? Should I be worried about myself or loved-one using prescription opioid medications? Prescription opioids are medications that are used for pain management following surgery, accidents, and occasionally chronic pain relief. Opioids are indicated for moderate to severe pain relief and may pose a risk of serious side effects. One of the most concerning drawbacks to opioid use is the risk of overdose. Thrifty White Pharmacy has implemented several programs to help optimize patient safety during opioid utilization. These include educational tools to assist the pharmacist in enhanced medication counseling and prevention of adverse side effects that may be associated with opioid medications. This additional education helps your pharmacist communicate techniques for optimal medication usage and ways to prevent accidental overdose. These are examples of what your pharmacist may discuss with you during opioid medication use: 1. How to dispose of your opioid medication once your treatment is completed. 2. The possibility of filling only a portion of your pain medication and retumingto refill the remaining portion only if you need to continue therapy. 3. How to prevent accidental opioid overdose and ways to aid in preventing side effects during treatment. 4. Educating you and your significant other about identifying symptoms relating to ‘too much' pain medication use during treatment. 5. Options for obtaining emergency medication (naloxone) to have at home for reversal of accidental opioid overdose. 6. If you do not feel comfortable using an opioid, the pharmacist can also communicate with your physician about alternative pain medications that may be safer for you. What individuals have a higher'risk'of accidental overdose to opioid medications? 1. Male gender 2. Older age 3. Using opioids while treating certain medical conditions (Le. asthma. depression, liver disease, sleep apnea. or COPD) 4. Using high prescribed doses of opioids 5. Using certain medications with opioids (i.e. sleeping medication or muscle relaxers) @ONERx 2015 It is estimated that up to 30% of individuals that use opioid medications are at risk for accidental overdose. Talk with you Thrifty White Pharmacist today! . 0 Employee Owned 9704422 402 East Main 0 Sidney, MT (406I482-1420 PHARMACY HOURS: Mon- Fri: 9amopm Sat: Closed 0 Sun: Closed . ....__ma:; . Please ask for further details regarding terms and penalties. .MerchantsBank Big enough to serve you Small enough to know you 216 S. Ellery Ave. Fairview, MT 4064426203 Mon-Fri: 9am - 4pm W y m PHARMACY it“:.'.’.‘?é’.§i.'.‘.°.“;:::this: at: a ' BUY ONLINE www.0nlinedrugstoresom 0 o O