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The Center for Mental Health: wisdom from the field.

"We envision a future when everyone with a mental illness will recover, a future when mental illnesses can be prevented or cured, a future when mental illnesses are detected early, and a future when everyone with a mental illness at any stage of life has access to effective treatment and supports--essentials for living, working, learning, and participating fully in the community."

President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, 2003 Vision Statement

The crisis in the provision of primary mental health care in Montana is well documented. As we continue to confront the obstacles and challenges associated with providing the highest quality of services to this vulnerable population, it is helpful to reflect on our mission, goals, and philosophy of care. We continue to benefit from "checking in" with our progress and renewing our commitment to the population we serve.

The goal of programming at the Center for Mental Health in Helena is to "support and teach adults with psychiatric disabilities to recognize their strengths and power to successfully live, socialize, and work in the community."

The services we provide to meet this goal include therapeutic contacts, intensive case management, medication monitoring, motivational interviewing strategies in addressing co-occurring disorders, community-based rehabilitative services, crisis assessment and stabilization, residential placement, supported housing, peer support specialists, educational opportunities, employment opportunities, family involvement, Montana House day treatment programming, and job training. We are committed to our treatment philosophy which is recovery oriented and based on the integration of services.

Our program planning is guided by the 2003 President's New Freedom Commission Report on Mental Health: "Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America" which calls for a "fundamental transformation of the Nation's approach to mental health care." As part of the 2001 New Freedom Initiative under President George W. Bush, the commission was charged with investigating both public and private mental health delivery systems in the United States. The goal of the New Freedom Initiative was to "promote increased access to educational and employment opportunities for people with disabilities," including individuals with psychiatric disabilities.

The Center for Mental Health is in agreement with the three obstacles to the delivery of mental health services as identified by the President in 2002. These identified obstacles are integrated into the commission's report and are as follows:

1. Stigma that surrounds mental illnesses,

2. Unfair treatment limitations and financial requirements placed on mental health benefits in private health insurance, and

3. The fragmented mental health service delivery system.

Where are we in Montana in 2010? These obstacles continue to present a barrier to recovery. The state of Montana now has the highest suicide rate per capita of any state in the union. Rural areas are especially impacted with fragmented systems of treatment and a lack of access to specialists in the treatment of mental health symptoms. Psychiatric prescribers in both rural and urban areas of Montana are difficult to recruit and retain. Caseloads are in the hundreds and this precipitates a crisis driven approach to treatment. Those with seriously disabling mental illnesses are often forced to access emergency rooms for emergent medication needs, creating strain on numerous systems and communities.

A promising development for reform in the delivery of primary mental health services in Montana is the new Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (FPMHNP) graduate program option offered through Montana State University College of Nursing. The demand for prescribing mental health specialists is well documented throughout the state and the nation. Community Mental Health providers will welcome those completing this program with promising career opportunities and support. The common vision for the future of mental health care reflected in the commission's vision statement quoted at the top of this page becomes achievable when obstacles for Montanans are eliminated by access to needed medications and ongoing treatment.

Please remember: May is Mental Health Month!

For more information about the Center for Mental Health please visit our website at:

Additional on-line resources for mental health include:;;;

For more information on MSU-Bozeman College of Nursing's Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (FPMHNP) Graduate program, please visit the College of Nursing website at or contact Ms. Lynn Taylor, the graduate program Administrative Assistant, at or 406-994-3500.

Applications for admission to the College of Nursing graduate programs are due each year by February 15th.

Biography: As director of four county mental health service areas at The Center for Mental Health in Helena, Rhonda Champagne has extensive knowledge of mental health systems in Montana. She is a licensed clinical social worker with twenty years of direct care experience. She provides consultation throughout the state and is considered a subject matter expert on recovery practices, embracing strength recognition and self determination for individuals with mental illness to successfully live, socialize and work in the community.

by Rhonda Champagne, LCSW
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Author:Champagne, Rhonda
Publication:The Pulse
Date:May 1, 2010
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