By Sarah Gianelli EBS Senior Editor
BIG SKY – A $25,000 grant from Yellowstone Club Community Foundation has made it possible for the nonprofit Women in Action to provide mental health services on a sliding scale at their offices in the Grizzly Outfitters on the River building on Highway 191 in Big Sky.
Dr. Hillary Morin, a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Bozeman and a professor in Montana State University’s psychology department, now offers her services in Big Sky on Fridays.
Originally from New Hampshire, and educated at Bowdoin College and the University of Virginia, Morin specializes in eating disorders, but has treated Big Sky residents for issues relating to interpersonal dynamics, depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Growing up in a rural community, the accessibility of mental health services for the under-insured and the uninsured has always been important to Morin, who cites how prohibitive it can be to have to travel to Bozeman for treatment. Currently, Morin is the only certified clinical psychologist seeing patients in Big Sky. She has six slots available on Fridays and still has openings.
“I’m from a rural community so I’ve always been interested in access to care and the barriers to rural mental health care,” Morin said. She has also spent a great deal of time studying suicidality, noting that ski towns have a higher suicide rate, and that the problem is compounded by stigma, a lack of access to services, and an underinsured population.
For her services in Big Sky, payment is based on household income. The YCCF grant pays half, and Morin donates her services to cover the remaining portion. She will still see individuals who have insurance or are above the income threshold to qualify for the sliding scale arrangement.
Morin, who just began seeing patients in Big Sky in mid-January, said it’s an evolving model, but she is confident that they will continue to secure funding to maintain—and hopefully expand—the services.
“We’re really hoping to use this time as a trial period to better assess the needs of the community, and see if it would be fruitful for additional practitioners to come to Big Sky,” she said
Morin is involved in the Big Sky Psychological Consortium, a group of practicing Bozeman psychologists who are working together to establish a stronger mental health practitioner presence in Big Sky.
Morin stresses the fact that people can view her services as an opportunity to improve their mental wellness.
“[It doesn’t have to be] the ‘I’m down in a ditch and need a therapist to help me out of it’ [sort of situation’],” she said.
“There’s no commitment,” she added. “See what the experience is like and if you find the space helpful.”
Using a metaphor, she said a patient might be able to walk, but she has a bicycle.
“I can help you get from point A to point B faster. Seeking help will increase the pace at which you can improve your symptoms.”
Morin offers her services to all ages, but minors do require parental consent. All sessions will remain confidential, unless the patient poses a threat to themselves or others.
“I think it’s particularly crucial for young adults and emerging adults who might need help learning to better manage the increased stressors that come with school and adulting to have a space to explore what contributes to their mental health issues, and hopefully alleviate them in a way that allows them to more fully engage in their lives.”
To set up an appointment with Dr. Morin call (406) 415-2017 and leave a message with your availability and presenting concern. You can also visit bigskywia.org for more information.