By Dr. Richard Paris
Idaho ranks 50th in the nation when it comes to access to psychiatric providers, and the Wood River Valley is no exception. Without a doubt, this lack of access impacts Idaho’s suicide death rate, which is 50 percent higher than the national average.
According to the World Health Organization, mental illness results in more disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. Other published studies report that about 25 percent of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and that nearly 50 percent of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime.
The term mental illness refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders. Effects of mental illnesses include disruptions of daily function; incapacitating personal, social and occupational impairment; and premature death. The most common mental illnesses are anxiety and mood disorders.
During the past two years, we have seen a critical reduction in affordable and accessible mental health services in Blaine County, specifically psychiatry. To address these significant unmet needs, St. Luke’s Wood River has made it a priority to develop a well-coordinated system to provide affordable and accessible mental health services in our region. Investments in the treatment of underlying mental health issues, particularly for those with limited or no resources, is crucial to the health of our community.
In addition to providing much-needed medication management for patients with complex mental health issues, the team of a physician and licensed mental health providers will work in close collaboration with primary care providers to provide seamless care to patients with behavioral health needs. This follows suit with the developing movement to address mental health issues inclusively as part of a patient’s care, moving away from the model of treating psychiatric issues in isolation.
Our passion and our practice here at St. Luke’s Clinic Family Medicine is the continuum of care and the ongoing relationships with our patients. In order to provide this type of coordinated care, we strive to be the medical home for each of our patients. It’s so painful, just literally painful, for us to see patients suffer significant emotional crises, especially in times past when we have not had the help of the hospital to provide the necessary services to provide significant help in these situations. I look forward to the continued improvement in the availability of these services to help us better serve our community.
St. Luke’s Center for Community Health can assist those needing services. Please call 727-8733 for information regarding mental-health resources in our community.
Dr. Richard Paris is board certified in family medicine and has a special interest in obstetrics. He earned his medical degree from the University of Rochester and completed his residency at the University of Arizona Medical Center.