BILLINGS- Montana, Wyoming and Alaska are the only three states in the country with no psychiatric residency program, and they’re also consistently among the national leaders in suicide rates.
In Montana, that dubious distinction will soon change with a new psychiatric residency program coming to Billings Clinic.
The program, called Montana Track, will be built on a $3 million donation from the Helmsley Charitable Trust that was officially endowed Thursday.
The donation comes from the Trust’s Rural Healthcare Program with the goal to train residents in Billings to provide mental health services across the state.
The program will focus on making mental health resources available to underserved rural communities.
Walter Panzirer, a trustee for Helmsley Charitable Trust, said Thursday he hopes the program can begin to address the mental health staffing crisis in Montana.
“There’s a huge shortage of psychiatric services and psychiatrists in Montana. There are only seven psychiatrists for every 100,000 [residents]… The U.S average is 14,” said Panzirer.
Information provided by Helmsley suggests that over 70 percent of medical residents settle near their training, and adding incentives to move doctors to rural areas has been unsuccessful at addressing the needs of these communities in the past.
The program will support three positions over the course of four years for a total of 12 residents. The first residencies will begin in summer 2019.
Billings Clinic will seek to establish an additional $3 million endowment to keep the residency program financially viable for years to come.
The recently founded Psychiatric Stabilization Unit at Billings Clinic was also established using grant money from the Helmsley Charitable Trust.
The Helmsley Charitable Trust created its Rural Healthcare initiative in 2009 and has donated more than $376 million to health care initiatives in the Upper Midwest.