St. Luke’s Magic Valley and Cambia Health Foundation Seek to Improve Delivery of Behavioral Health Care


By Paul Johnson

Twin Falls, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KSVT-TV ) - Efforts to address a serious youth public health issue are getting a significant boost thanks to a grant from Cambia Health Foundation. The foundation is awarding more than $130,000 to the nonprofit St. Luke’s Magic Valley Regional Medical Center, which will use the funds as part of a comprehensive new effort to integrate children’s behavioral and mental health into primary care.

Two recent studies demonstrate how great the need is for this kind of more holistic approach to health care for younger patients. The first study, “Behavioral Health Barometer: Idaho 2013” from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, reveals that nearly one in ten youth ages 12-17 in the Gem State has had a major depressive episode in the past year. The study also shows that only about one in three young people who experienced such an episode received treatment for their depression.

Findings from two Boise State University researchers, published in Northwest Public Health, are similarly troubling. Susan Esp and Elizabeth Hannah note that “Idaho data from the 2010–11 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that rates of past-year serious psychological distress were higher in Idaho than the country as a whole, particularly among the age groups of 12–17 and 18–25. Idaho prevalence rates of depression for these two age groups have been among the highest in the country since 2004.” The BSU professors also conclude, “Due to a critical shortage of behavioral health providers in many rural Idaho communities, some level of integration or collaboration of behavioral health and primary health services appears to be critical.”

Those formal external research findings and recommendations match up well with what mental health practitioners at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Regional Medical Center have found. That’s why they’re launching this new effort.

“This is an opportunity for us to work together with our community stakeholders to improve the mental health of youth in Idaho, both in the private and public sectors,” said Jim Angle, regional CEO, St. Luke’s, East Region. “We appreciate the investment of Cambia Health Foundation in providing this educational training to providers throughout the region.”

The medical center will be hosting a September training session for physicians from throughout the Magic, Treasure and Wood River valleys to raise awareness of the extent of the problem in Idaho – and to share new and better ways of identifying and assisting these young patients. “There is a significant lack of evidence-based services for children and families struggling with mental illness and behavioral issues across the state of Idaho,” said Dr. Sam Pullen, division medical director, St. Luke’s Clinic Behavioral Health Services, East Region. “Part of our strategy to improve access to appropriate mental and behavioral health services is to educate our primary care colleagues, who treat the vast majority of these patients and their families, and that is what this grant will help us do.”

“The Cambia Health Foundation is proud to partner with St Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center to address this vital aspect of children’s overall health and well-being,” said Scott Kreiling, founding member of the Cambia Health Foundation board of directors. “We are committed to investing in the health of our communities with support for innovative, highly collaborative projects like this – and we really admire the work being done by Dr. Sam Pullen and his team in this key area.”

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