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Expecting and new Montana moms can connect faster to the right mental care

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Posted at 7:27 PM, May 07, 2021

BILLINGS - Pregnant women and new moms across Montana now have a new tool to help take on the overwhelming mental stress and anguish that often comes with pregnancy and/or postpartum illness.

Although the service works directly with care providers, the benefits are streamlined to the patient.

It’s called PRISM for Moms, which stands for Psychiatric Referrals, Intervention and Support in Montana.

It’s the first consultation line dedicated to helping patients with perinatal mood disorders across the state.

The line is staffed 24/7 by the clinical team of Billings-based Frontier Psychiatry. The tele-psychiatry company has teamed up with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, and Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies – The Montana Coalition.

Christie Weseman, a certified nurse midwife out of Kalispell, says she sees a lot of women dealing with perinatal mood disorders, and local experts previously dealt with the resources they had. So what once took months, can now take just a day.

”Like a history of postpartum psychosis or someone that's showing signs of hypomania like bipolar,” said Weseman. “Being able to get on top of that really quickly to prevent it from going to those scary places that it can go and do it in a really timely manner with, with good help, has been... awesome.”

Data shows severe shortages in mental and behavioral health across Montana, with 55 of Montana’s 56 counties designated as Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas.

Dr. Eric Arzubi, a trained child and adult psychiatrist and CEO of Frontier Psychiatry, says there are no perinatal psychiatrists in Montana so this new program will help clinicians fill that gap.

“Call this line and we'll provide the help and the idea is that the same day, you will get access to an expert of perinatal psychiatrist, who will then provide the information, the clinical support necessary to really help that mom or expecting mom.”

The Department of Health and Human Services report that while 10.5% of women at the national level report depression before pregnancy, this number climbs to 19.6% for Montana women.

Arzubi said Montana’s mental health is multifaceted, but he pointed out three problem areas.

He said data shows more Montana children are exposed to adverse childhood experiences, there’s shortage of mental health professionals, and there’s a disproportionately high population of some vulnerable communities.

These statistics stack up against Montana moms, and Arzubi said the better a mom does, the better a child and family does.

“I think intervening as early as possible, even before birth, is critical to the mental health and overall health of not only mom but certainly the children, right. So we're doing something like this, we're going as far upstream as possible to get ahead of future problems," said Arzubi.

A step forward that Arzubi and the state of Montana hope to grow.

“We have the teams, we have the know how,” said Arzubi. “We're doing everything we can to get that know how out into all the communities in Montana... because we can and because we should.”

The cost to support the line, which also includes help with substance abuse mental health is $490,000 through 2023.

This service is funded through part of a five-year federal grant awarded to DPHHS through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

To request a consultation, clinicians are encouraged to call 1-833-83-PRISM (1-833-837-7476) or submit a HIPAA-compliant online e-consult form at prismconsult.org.