A program providing help to patients with depression is in its third year at Valley View Health Center. 

After this year, the grant funding the program will end, but Valley View hopes to continue to provide services.

Two years ago, The John A. Hartford Foundation, a New York City-based, health-focused philanthropic organization, awarded Valley View one of its first Social Innovation Funds grants to provide the program.

The foundation also provides training and regular contact to make sure the program is successful and improving.

“They help us with sustainability, so their goal is that when the grant funding all goes away, that this program keeps going,” said Dr. Tre Normoyle, Valley View behavioral health director. “This third year there’s a big, huge focus on sustainability.” 

With insurance companies now required to reimburse the cost of mental health care through behavioral health departments, Valley View might be able to utilize that to keep the program going.

“We just hope to continue what we have and to continue to grow,” Normoyle said.

The program is based on the Improving Mood-Providing Access to Collaborative Treatment model of care, which is also referred to as Collaborative Care.

Valley View works with the University of Washington Advancing Integrated Mental Health Solutions, or AIMS, Center to administer the program. 

Patients are referred to the program through their medical doctors. A care manager manages overall treatment plans, provides brief psychotherapy and supports medical management. A psychiatric consultant works with the case manager and makes recommendations. 

“We work with the patient and their medical provider treating depression,” said Tyler Stewart, clinical lead and care coordinator at Valley View. 

At Valley View, patients work with a consulting psychiatrist from the University of Washington via telepsychiatry over the phone and via video conferencing. 

The UW psychiatrist writes recommendations for the patient, which is shared with both the patient and his or her medical provider, who makes a decision on medication.

Based on a survey, Valley View has found that patients think video conferencing with the Seattle-based psychiatrist is a positive experience, Normoyle said.

“One of the things that’s exciting about this grant is that it’s a way to bring behavioral health care and psychiatric care to rural communities where there’s a lack of access to those resources,” Stewart said. 

The program also has two bilingual therapists, enabling Valley View to reach more patients.

“And I think that’s been amazing … it’s really blossomed,” Normoyle said.

Along with serving Twin Cities patients, the program is also available at Valley View’s Onalaska and Toledo clinics.

For many people, it can be easier to talk about depression with their regular provider, who then, many times, introduces employees of the program as a “member of the health care team,” instead of telling patients they’re being referred to a mental health therapist.

“A lot of people in our community, and especially rural, they’re pretty afraid of that or don’t want to do that,” Normoyle said. “... It kind of breaks down barriers to treatment.”

Stewart said some patients who are grieving after the loss of a loved one, have a medical condition that can affect their moods or are dealing with another event don’t realize depression has resulted from the experience. 

The program isn’t focused on long-term, chronic depression. It is considered a brief-model program where patients are on average seen for about 12 sessions; some patients stay in the program for about half of that time.

“We’re very solution-focused. ... We’re doing some pretty basic changes in behavior, little steps at a time,” Normoyle said.

If a patient is experiencing a long-term issue, or a disorder such as bipolar or schizophrenia, Valley View tries to partner with other community resources such as Cascade Mental Health Care to get them treatment. 

Normoyle said while the focus of Valley View’s program is depression, many of the patients have co-occurring issues or trauma histories, which are addressed as well.

“If their depression is better and they’re still needing more, then we would be referring them on,” Normoyle said.

So far, 321 patients have been seen through the program. In the next year, Normoyle said, they hope to help another 130 patients.

Lewis County matched the grant from the foundation through the sales and use tax of one-10th of 1 percent.

The grant was originally for two years, with about $170,000 coming from each entity for each year.

Funding for the third year from both agencies totals about the same with an additional $50,000 from each to expand the program.

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