SHERIDAN — Five positions and a team of stakeholders and consumers associated with Northern Wyoming Mental Health are working to make services more comprehensive for Sheridan and surrounding counties thanks to $479,226 in grants.
The center is working to help bridge the gap for mental health coverage between a Title 25 hospital visit and release from that visit with proper follow-up care. To better understand what is needed to serve the community in that capacity, the Gatekeeping Project with a budget of $65,000 will help complete the feasibility study for crisis stabilization. Stakeholders and consumers of services for NWMHC from Sheridan, Crook, Weston and Johnson counties will meet next week to begin the feasibility study.
“What’s the need and what would a facility and an array of services look like here?” clinical director at the center Jennifer White said. “It’s everything from the building itself to staffing patterns to treatment services.”
Aug. 15 marked the start of practical application of what the study will further look into with the $133,680 Gatekeeping Incentivizing grant. Two case managers, Ashlynne O’Bryant and Rachel Laird, began working on tracking care after Title 25 hospitalizations in Sheridan County.
“Their job is to gather data on folks who enter the Title 25 system, to follow these people throughout the system and help guide them and their families so they don’t get lost in the system,” White said. “Somebody may go to the state hospital and they would participate in their discharge planning to prepare them for coming back into the community.”
White said both the center and the state want to observe the repeat users, see who’s utilizing the Title 25 services and see how they can better be served, possibly through diversion services in their home communities.
“You can see how the crisis stabilization grant fits in with the gatekeeping grant because if we had a facility here, we could divert a lot more people out of the expensive hospital system,” White said.
Alongside those grants, an Assisted Outpatient Treatment grant will provide the center another $179,284 to focus on directed outpatient treatment starting in October. Those utilizing the Title 25 longer than the initial 24-hour hold then attend a court hearing in 4th Judicial District Court to determine whether to refer the patient to inpatient treatment or court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment. This type of treatment derived from a 2016-revised state statute of Title 25, where it originally allowed users the option of treatment at the state hospital or unsupervised release.
“I can definitely see how the AOT… will be beneficial to our clients,” Laird said. “Having that amount of wraparound services will be huge.”
As part of this grant, NWMHC hired an additional therapist and job coach and continues to look for a second job coach to help maintain stabilization gains. Folks falling under this treatment option need motivation to continue with outpatient treatment, White said.
“The directed outpatient treatment is a (court) order to follow up with your outpatient treatment plan,” White said. “Then the court reviews it over time to determine whether or not they can just continue it voluntarily.”
Laird already sees benefits in the program for her clients.
“So far the clients I’ve worked with so far have been responsive and are pleased with (the) increase in services available to them,” Laird said.
White said the grant also allows the center to train all clinicians in dialectical behavior therapy that Behavioral Tech, a Linehan Institute Training Company, says emphasizes individual psychotherapy and group skills training classes to help people learn new skills and strategies to develop a life that they experience as worth living.
With five incoming employees being funded primarily on grant money, the question of sustainability arises.
“We’re always looking for ways to sustain a program that’s needed,” White said. “Grant funding’s never forever.”
White said the purpose of grant funding is to pilot programs for sustainability.
“If people are using this, if we’re able to generate enough revenue…to sustain the program, we’ll go with or without the funding,” she said.
Laird said while the services are fairly new, she sees the AOT services providing success long-term.