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Report: Mental health among top needs in Latah County

Moscow-Pullman Daily News - 2/21/2020

Feb. 21--Mental health has garnered increasing attention throughout the country in recent years, so it is not a surprise that the combined category of mental health/suicide prevention is one of the top six needs identified in Gritman Medical Center's 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment.

Affordability/accessibility, physicians, substance abuse, education/prevention and chronic pain management are the other five significant health needs identified for Latah County in Gritman's report. Education/prevention and chronic pain management are the only two of the six that were not significant needs in the hospital's 2016 CHNA.

To comply with the Affordable Care Act, all not-for-profit hospitals are required to develop a report on the medical and health needs of the communities they serve. GMC will conduct a CHNA at least once every three years, according to the report.

The hospital has developed implementation strategies for the six needs.

"We've made progress in the past three years," said Peter Mundt, Gritman director of community relations and marketing. "There's more that we want to make in the next three."

According to the 2019 assessment, the county population to mental health provider ratio is worse than the state average, suicide is the eighth-leading cause of death in Latah County and the county's mental and substance abuse related deaths increased 205 percent in women from 1980 to 2014 and 173.7 percent in men during the same 34-year timeframe.

Gritman has numerous services, programs and resources available to respond to the mental health and suicide needs and has other plans to address the need. Hiring a counselor for rural county residents is one action the hospital has taken.

Caren Cox, a licensed clinical professional counselor, recently started working in Gritman's three rural clinics of Potlatch, Troy and Kendrick.

Cox said she has been working at the Potlatch clinic since July, and the Troy and Kendrick clinics the last couple of weeks. Gritman has not had a counselor in the three rural Latah County towns in at least the recent past.

Cox said she sees patients Monday at the Kendrick clinic, Tuesday at the Potlatch clinic and Wednesday at the Troy clinic. She sees about 10 patients per week at each clinic and depression and anxiety are the most common problems her patients deal with, Cox said.

Rachael Scharnhorst, Gritman rural and specialty clinics director, said she and Cox are evaluating the mental-health needs of each of the three small towns.

Cox said serving rural communities allows residents who do not have reliable transportation to get to Moscow for services to seek help close to home.

Mundt said the downtown Moscow crisis center, which opened late last year, is important for the hospital and the community. If not for the crisis center, Mundt said people experiencing a mental health crisis would possibly end up in the hospital's emergency department or in jail.

"Neither of those is a good option for someone who's in a state of mental distress," Mundt said. "And so the crisis center is at least a step in the right direction of providing a place where people can go that keeps them safe, keeps the community safe, gets them connected with resources that can help them on their path and journey towards recovery or treatment."

Gritman has a safe room available in the emergency department for patients with mental health issues so patients and hospital staff are safe.

Mundt said Gritman is also integrated with the Latah Recovery Center and state and regional entities involved with mental health.

Gritman's Dr. Ninon Germain offers psychiatry and mental health services in Moscow.

To schedule an appointment with Germain or Cox, visit gritman.org, hover over "Services and Care Areas" at the top of the page, click on "All Services & Care Areas," and then click on "Psychiatry and Mental Health."

Phone numbers to schedule an appointment with Germain and Cox are listed on the page, as well as a quiz that people can take to assess their risk for depression.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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