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Serving the Community’s Mental Health

  • Category: Mental Health
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  • Written By: St. John's Health
Serving the Community’s Mental Health

Mental health is of critical concern for communities across the state of Wyoming, and Jackson Hole is no different. According to the 2021 Community Health Needs Assessment, respondents believe that mental health is the top need that the community faces. It’s this consistent and important need that drives the exceptional resources delivered through the Behavioral Health Department.

Lindsay Long portraitLindsay Long, Behavioral Health Manager, is proud to showcase the ways in which the department has expanded and works to connect with patients in a diversity of settings. “Our providers are embedded in outpatient clinics across the community,” she explains. “This allows them to be an on-site resource for the doctors in the clinics as well as screen every patient for depression or suicidality regardless of what brought them in.”

While Teton County’s suicide rate is approximately half of the statewide rate — a shocking of nearly 30 in 100,000 people, making it the highest in the nation — it’s still a crucial issue to discuss. “In alignment with our Zero Suicide Initiative, we strive to ensure that all patients are screened, connected, and treated when they face mental health challenges or are considering suicide,” says Long.

In an effort to expand understanding and cultivate the most impactful approach to caring for community members experiencing suicidal ideation, St. John’s Health, partnered with St. John’s Health Foundation, the Community Prevention Coalition of Teton County, the Teton County School District, the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, and Teton Interagency Peer Support to bring Dr. Kent Corso to the valley. Corso led trainings for medical professionals, teachers, private therapists, and first responders in the area, as well as presented to the public on the evening of May 3rd.

“May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and this was the perfect opportunity to bring Dr. Corso into the community. His understanding and approach to helping people who are suicidal is different and powerful,” Long explains. “The overall goal is to bend the suicide curve and implement strategies that offer compassionate support to those who need it most.”

In addition to connecting with patients in outpatient clinic settings, St. John’s Health’s Behavioral Health program connects with all new parents who deliver babies at the hospital. “A little over a year ago, we recognized that there was a community gap in support for new parents who are at risk for postpartum depression or anxiety,” says Long. Now, the Lactation Consultants screen all new parents with mood questions at 2 and 4 weeks postpartum. If parents screen positive and express their desire for additional support, the Behavioral Health team will follow up with the parents to create a treatment plan.

“If a parent needs further support, up to five sessions with one of our counselors is completely free,” Long explains. She adds that many departments throughout the St. John’s Health organization have their own social workers, as well — individuals that are dedicated to assisting patients and their families navigate the emotional and psychological journey that unfolds alongside their physical care.

In addition to connecting directly with patients in the St. John’s Health system, Long adds that the hospital is an active member of the Teton Behavioral Health Alliance. This constellation of 25 local organizations works to align systems for collaboration and offer a continuum of care. “Through tools like our Mental Health Resource Line, people can easily find and connect to the care that they need when they need it most,” says Long.

St. John’s Health’s Behavioral Health team offers exceptional care for young people as well. The child and adolescent psychiatry department is helmed by psychiatrist and medical director Nils C. Westfall, MD — an expert board-certified in child and adolescent psychiatry and general psychiatry.

Of course, St. John’s Health does not exclusively look out for the mental health of patients and the community at large. All employees of the organization have access to the support and resources of the Behavioral Health Department as well. “Not only do employees enjoy a generous insurance package, but St. John’s Health Foundation is covering the costs of counseling staff members in need of it,” explains Long. The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the community's understanding of how stressful frontline health care work can be.

“St. John’s Health is one piece of a larger puzzle; part of a bigger system,” observes Long. “But we are working hard to collaborate and innovate to move the needle in the community. To be a part of critical solutions.”