Federal grant allows Sapphire Community Health to expand mental health services

By PERRY BACKUS of the Ravalli Republic |  Oct 17, 2018

Sapphire Community Health Center's mental health team includes Susan Devine, Chris Crites, Deb Eckheart and Tamera Klapwyk.

Sapphire Community Health Center in Hamilton has expanded its mental health services after recently receiving a federal grant of nearly $250,000.

The grant was part of a $4.3 million package allocated to 16 health centers in the state to address drug abuse, addiction and mental health issues.

The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Expanding Access to Quality Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services program, which officially aims to “support health centers in implementing and advancing evidence-based strategies that best meet the substance use disorder and mental health needs of the populations they serve.”

At Sapphire Community Health, the additional funding added a new layer of services to the medical center that takes pride in its ability to holistically treat patients no matter where they fall in the economic spectrum.

“We have a team approach in optimizing care here,” said Sapphire’s CEO Janet Woodburn. “The grant made it possible for us to expand what we already had in place.”

The center’s mental health staff includes staff psychiatric nurse Chris Crites and psychiatric nurse practitioner Susan Devine. Tami Klapwyk serves as the center’s manager of behavioral health services and Deb Eckheart is a mental health therapist. Libbi Sleath is the center’s licensed addiction counselor.

That team works directly with other medical staff, which makes the center unique in Ravalli County.

“There is nowhere else in the county where you can walk in the front door and get assessed for physical health, mental health, substance abuse and have all of that information on the same patient record,” Klapwyk said. “Anywhere else you would be referred to another organization. That’s the concept that we work under. We take a holistic approach to our patient’s health.”

Integrating primary health with mental health care can make a difference in people’s lives.

Research shows somewhere between 70 to 77 percent of all patients — “our staff would say it’s probably closer to 80 to 90 percent” — who come in for primary health care have stress-related illnesses, Woodburn said.

Sapphire Health’s integrated model allows caregivers the opportunity to detect a crisis at earlier stages and then refer those patients to other team members at the health care center to address those issues.

“People often self medicate for mental health issues,” Woodburn said. “It’s easier to buy a beer than go see a psychiatrist. It’s easier, but it doesn’t solve the problem they are faced with. It just delays it and the disease becomes more progressed.

“The sooner we can get people in for help, the less painful it is for the individual and for the family,” she said. “They don’t have to make another appointment with another organization and then wait three weeks to start the process all over again. They can just walk down the hall because we have it all here. That’s huge.”

Facing a mental health issue is not always easy for people.

“I find that people are often reluctant to embrace that part of their care, but when it’s right here and I can go with the patient and introduce them, they feel more comfortable with the process,” Klapwyk said. “They don’t have to start their story from the beginning.

“That warm handoff makes it more personable,” she said. “It’s not so scary for people. They don’t have to do another admission or intake.”

Klapwyk said transportation is an issue for many of the center’s patients.

“They don’t have to go to two different places in one day,” she said. “That makes a difference for them.”

“It’s one stop shopping for health and mental well-being,” Eckheart said.

The center at 316 N. 3rd St. currently serves about 2,000 patients.

Woodburn said about a third of the patients qualify for payment on a sliding scale. Another third have private insurance and the remainder use either Medicare or Medicaid.

While often busy, the center accepts walk-ins and new patients.

“You might have wait if you walk in without an appointment,” Woodburn said.

People with insurance can get a free flu shot. New patients will be entered in a drawing for up to a $100 gift certificate from Bob Wards & Sons.

On Oct. 24, 25 and November 13, 14, the center will offer lab tests for CBC, CMP, TSH and lipids for $35. The service is for both new and established patients. Anyone interested must fast for 12 hours prior to having the blood drawn.

The center will host an open house on Dec. 6, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“It will give people a chance to see where we’re located and meet us,” Woodburn said. “They will be able to see for themselves just how eager our staff is to help. Our staff is very dedicated and they want to help people.”