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New Consultation Program Created To Treat Mothers And Pregnant Women With Mental Health Conditions

A pregnant woman in a striped dress standing profile against a blue sky on June 25, 2010.
Frank de Kleine (CC BY 2.0)
A pregnant woman in a striped dress standing profile against a blue sky on June 25, 2010.

The Montana state health department is launching a consultation line for rural health professionals treating pregnant women and moms with mental health conditions.

The line is designed to bolster Montana’s mental health resources.

A nurse-midwife in Kalispell recently was considering possible medication for a patient with a history of postpartum psychosis, but what she really needed was a specialist.

“I wanted to get her a team, and unfortunately it takes a little while to get into psychiatric care,” said nurse-midwife Christie Weseman.

So, Weseman called a psychiatrist located in Billings through the state’s new consultation program Psychiatric Referrals, Intervention, and Support in Montana, or PRISM.

PRISM seeks to address the shortage of psychiatrists in Montana’s rural areas who specialize in treating mental and behavioral health in expecting and new mothers.

Weseman with Kalispell Regional Healthcare was part of PRISM’s three-month test run.

“To be able to connect with a psychiatric care provider that specializes in perinatal mood disorders in a timely way is amazing,” Weseman said.

PRISM is funded through 2023 with $490,000 from a federal grant and staffed through Billings-based Frontier Psychiatry, with support from partners in the state’s health department and a Helena-based association of medical professionals called Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies.

According to the state, nearly 20% of Montana women report depression before pregnancy. That’s about 10% above the national average.

Dr. Eric Arzubi with Frontier Psychiatry hopes the specialist on the other end of the line will provide customized advice that both the patient and the healthcare provider can benefit from.

“There’s a back and forth of clinical information, sharing of clinical expertise that hopefully again will benefit the patient immediately but also provide some education for the person making the call that maybe next time they’ll have a better idea for other options to treat depression in someone who is pregnant,” Arzubi said.

He says a perinatal psychiatrist will lead the program and staff the line starting May 17.

Copyright 2021 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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