Presentation Title

Barriers to Accessing Behavioral Health Services for Missoula Residents

Authors' Names

Bonnie Bishop

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Artist Statement

The American Public Human Services Association states that behavioral health includes both mental health and substance use, encompassing a continuum of prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery support services (Neese, 2017). Missoula City-County has an abundance of behavioral health professionals and programs, yet public documents consistently rank lack of access to behavioral health services as a dire community need. Despite the above average number of providers and support services located in Missoula County, the persistent evidence of poor mental health is a reminder that having sufficient numbers of providers does not automatically improve access to services (CHIP, 2017).

Missoula County residents consistently report more frequent poor mental health days in the past month than the US average (in 2015, 3.4 compared to 2.8, respectively) even while Missoula County’s ratio of mental health care providers per population being 270:1, which is a greater ratio compared to 410:1 for Montana and 360:1 in the top 1% of counties in the US. Substance abuse is also a pressing issue in Montana. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that there were 390 alcohol attributable deaths in Montana from 2006 to 2010, for an overall alcohol attributable death rate of 37.7 per 100,000, the highest rate in the country.

While access to care has been a well-known barrier acknowledged by behavioral health professionals, very little data has been collected within the community to quantify this issue. In 2018, the Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD) developed a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) prioritizing data collection on lack of access to behavioral health services. In pursuit of this data, a partnership was developed between the University of Montana School of Public & Community Health graduate program and the CHIP Behavioral Health work group. In a collaborative effort, a survey was created and distributed in Missoula to collect data on barriers that low-income adults face when attempting to access behavioral health services in Missoula.

After reviewing the 2018 CHIP Report, 2017 Community Health Assessment (CHA) and other literature, the graduate students created a 16-item survey using Qualtrics, an online survey platform. After the survey was finalized, MCCHD distributed it to key informants including 68 individuals from 38 different organizations in Missoula. From those 68 individuals, we received a notable 62 responses. Graduate students utilized a process called thematic analysis to identify patterns of meaning across the 62 survey responses. After doing so, six recurrent barrier themes were identified: access to services, affordability, case management, crisis services, community and social support and system reform.

This presentation will summarize the data collected from the survey and will elaborate on current efforts to identify viable solutions amongst community agencies and organizations in hopes of alleviating the opposition Missoula residents face when attempting to access behavioral health services.

Mentor Name

Annie Sondag

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Feb 22nd, 9:00 AM Feb 22nd, 9:15 AM

Barriers to Accessing Behavioral Health Services for Missoula Residents

UC 330

The American Public Human Services Association states that behavioral health includes both mental health and substance use, encompassing a continuum of prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery support services (Neese, 2017). Missoula City-County has an abundance of behavioral health professionals and programs, yet public documents consistently rank lack of access to behavioral health services as a dire community need. Despite the above average number of providers and support services located in Missoula County, the persistent evidence of poor mental health is a reminder that having sufficient numbers of providers does not automatically improve access to services (CHIP, 2017).

Missoula County residents consistently report more frequent poor mental health days in the past month than the US average (in 2015, 3.4 compared to 2.8, respectively) even while Missoula County’s ratio of mental health care providers per population being 270:1, which is a greater ratio compared to 410:1 for Montana and 360:1 in the top 1% of counties in the US. Substance abuse is also a pressing issue in Montana. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that there were 390 alcohol attributable deaths in Montana from 2006 to 2010, for an overall alcohol attributable death rate of 37.7 per 100,000, the highest rate in the country.

While access to care has been a well-known barrier acknowledged by behavioral health professionals, very little data has been collected within the community to quantify this issue. In 2018, the Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD) developed a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) prioritizing data collection on lack of access to behavioral health services. In pursuit of this data, a partnership was developed between the University of Montana School of Public & Community Health graduate program and the CHIP Behavioral Health work group. In a collaborative effort, a survey was created and distributed in Missoula to collect data on barriers that low-income adults face when attempting to access behavioral health services in Missoula.

After reviewing the 2018 CHIP Report, 2017 Community Health Assessment (CHA) and other literature, the graduate students created a 16-item survey using Qualtrics, an online survey platform. After the survey was finalized, MCCHD distributed it to key informants including 68 individuals from 38 different organizations in Missoula. From those 68 individuals, we received a notable 62 responses. Graduate students utilized a process called thematic analysis to identify patterns of meaning across the 62 survey responses. After doing so, six recurrent barrier themes were identified: access to services, affordability, case management, crisis services, community and social support and system reform.

This presentation will summarize the data collected from the survey and will elaborate on current efforts to identify viable solutions amongst community agencies and organizations in hopes of alleviating the opposition Missoula residents face when attempting to access behavioral health services.