Billings Campus to Develop Mental Health Clinic

October 23, 2014 | Rachel Wood

The Alliance of Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare, RiverStone Health and other partners received a $1.5 million federal grant in mid-September that will be awarded over the next three years. Walla Walla University’s Master's of Social Work extension campus in Billings, Mont., received $94,780 of that grant. Walla Walla’s specific role is to implement a mental health clinic on the Walla Walla University Master's of Social Work Billings campus that addresses mental health services in Yellowstone County. In addition to the Billings campus, the Walla Walla School of Social Work and Sociology offers a master's program in Missoula, Mont., and both bachelor's and master's programs in College Place, Wash.

“This clinic has been an answer to prayer and a realization of a dream,” says Pam Bing Perry, the Billings campus program coordinator. “Our clinic will especially focus on serving the residents in our neighborhood, as well as others in Yellowstone County.”

The existing Billings campus will host the new clinic through the addition of clinic space in each of the classrooms. These classrooms are normally in use only on Mondays. After the changes, these rooms will act as classrooms on Mondays and serve as a clinic on Tuesday through Thursday.

Perry envisioned the original proposal three years ago and spearheaded the proposal submission for the grant with the assistance of Dan Yazak, WWU Billings professor, and Sheila Dockter, Billings’ campus office manager. This grant, called the DE-STRESS (Development of Systems for Trauma-Response Education and Supportive Solutions) Project, enables the Alliance to provide a broad spectrum of treatments for those at risk for or experiencing trauma, with trauma-informed education and trauma-responsive system development. Additionally, this grant enables the Alliance to engage with the community in a coordinated response to adverse childhood experiences through trauma-informed responses to improve physical and mental health of the citizens of Yellowstone County.

The Alliance conducted a survey of the county residents in 2004 and found that Yellowstone County residents demonstrated negative trends in areas including mental health status, overall health status, adult obesity prevalence, teen suicide attempts, births to unwed mothers, infant death rate, unintentional injury deaths, children’s screen time, chronic drinking, drug-induced deaths and smokeless tobacco use.

This grant will enable the School of Social Work to more directly minister to the needs of the Yellowstone County community residents as well as provide clinical training for Master's of Social Work students. Perry says, “We are very grateful and blessed for this opportunity to serve and teach through this clinic ministry.”