One year after Greater Valley Health Center split from the Flathead City-County Health Department to become an independent nonprofit healthcare provider, the organization has expanded its services, hired additional providers and acquired Sykes Pharmacy to fill a gap in healthcare in the Flathead Valley.
Services have now grown in the Flathead Valley’s schools with integrated medical and behavioral health at Linderman Education Center in Kalispell, East Evergreen Elementary, Kalispell Middle School and Elrod Elementary School in Kalispell.
“We’re trying fill a gap of being able to support some of those more intensive behaviors but also catch some of those kids that experience anxiety and depression diagnosis,” Greater Valley Behavioral Director Shaunda Wenger said.
Last year, the organization served 394 students at school-based clinics and Wenger says it’s more impactful for students to receive healthcare within the school setting because it cuts out logistical challenges for parents and it offers convenient access. The service also takes pressure off school administrations.
“We bill separately so it’s a way for the schools to get services without expending their own resources,” Wenger said.
As a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), Greater Valley is required to offer care for all patients, regardless of ability to pay, offering a sliding fee scale and serving more than 7,000 patients annually.
In 2021, 20% of Greater Valley’s patients were uninsured, 36% of patients were on Medicaid, 18% were on Medicare and 25% had private insurance.
Despite Greater Valley’s expansion in behavioral health and psychiatric services, providers can’t keep up with the high demand for services and there’s a waitlist.
“There’s probably a higher need than any of us are 100% prepared to meet right now,” Greater Valley CEO Mary Sterhan said.
Greater Valley is also in the process of expanding co-occurring treatments for individuals who struggle with both addiction and mental health, providing medication-assisted treatment like sublocade and subdoxone to help treat substance dependence.
“This is providing medication support for folks that are trying to kick a substance use problem and to get them prepared to be able to get into counseling and therapy, Wenger said. “A lot times substance use treatment programs are very siloed.
Sterhan says the organization’s primary care service is often the first point of care for a patient who might need additional healthcare, allowing an integrated health system where providers connect them to the appropriate resources within the same organization.
Providers at Greater Valley plan to continue expanding services to meet the needs of patients in the Flathead Valley, but Sterhan says staffing has been stunting the growth they would like to see.
To incentivize potential employees, Sterhan is offering benefits for halftime employees while also encouraging staff to go to school and continue growing their career.
“We’re working on trying to be as creative as we can possibly be,” Sterhan said.
For more information, visit www.greatervalleyhealth.org.
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