News Article Details

Psychiatric services expected to address huge need

Moscow-Pullman Daily News - 11/6/2018

Nov. 06--Gritman Medical Center's lack of psychiatric services appears to be a thing of the past.

The growing need to treat mental health issues in Latah County led to the recruitment of two psychiatrists in May who have now provided care to more than 400 patients in the past six months, Gritman Chief Quality Officer Connie Osborn said.

Dr. David Wait, a board certified general adult psychiatrist, and Dr. Ninon Germain, a board certified pediatric and geriatric psychiatrist, now make up the hospital's psychiatric services.

Osborn said the hospital's 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment determined mental health and suicide as the most significant health needs in the county.

She said the assessment, which surveys Latah County community leaders and Gritman board members and staff, is conducted every three years and is used to determine the county's health needs and to develop a plan to address those needs.

The hospital conducted the first assessment in 2013 and Osborn said mental health and suicide ranked as the second most perceived need in that survey.

In his six months with Gritman, Wait said he has seen men and women in his office anywhere from 18-70 years of age. He said his most common diagnosis is depression, which is more common in women than men, Wait said.

"I came here because I wanted to go to a place where I could most help," Wait said.

He said residents have told him they are happy he is practicing at Gritman because of the huge need for mental health practitioners.

Wait said there is a shortage of psychiatrists throughout the country, especially in rural areas. He said there was even a bit of a shortage in Coeur d'Alene, where he previously privately practiced.

Osborn said a psychiatrist worked half-time for Gritman from 2006 to 2013, but since then, Pullman and Lewiston have been the closest destinations to seek help from a psychiatrist.

Wait said around the time of May 14 -- when he started seeing patients at Gritman -- a general adult psychiatrist in Lewiston and another one in Pullman quit, so the area became in need of psychiatric services.

Wait works full-time at Gritman and diagnoses and treats adults with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, bipolar and personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other chronic or severe mental illnesses.

Wait said Germain works at the Gritman office a couple days a month and diagnoses and treats those younger than 12 and older than 70 with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; depression; OCD; aggression, trauma, anxiety or insomnia; dementia; and other chronic and severe mental illnesses.

Osborn said without Gritman's outpatient services for behavioral and mental health, patients would get into crises and visit the emergency room.

"By having these outpatient services, that helps keep patients from falling into that crisis and maintaining their mental health," Osborn said.

Wait said while there is a rising need to treat mental health problems, they have always existed and people are speaking more often about them.

He said there is also a mental health stigma that discourages people who are suffering from mental illnesses and their families from seeking help.

"It's all the tougher when the care isn't there when they do try," Wait said.

He said suicide has been an epidemic in the U.S., particularly in the Mountain West, such as Idaho. Depression has also been on the rise, Wait said.

He said increasing isolation is a huge cause of depression and suicide.

While a full-time and part-time psychiatrist will benefit the community, Wait said the community could use at least a few more.

"Having something is vastly better than zero," he said.

The office is located on the second floor of the Gritman Medical Office Building, 803 S. Main St. To schedule an appointment, call (208) 883-6774.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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(c)2018 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho)

Visit the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho) at www.dnews.com

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