About a dozen loudly colored paintings featuring moose, forests and beaches are proudly mounted on one of the mint-colored walls in Sindy Filler’s Libby office.
The art, novice in nature but pleasant to look at, is of her own making. And upon further inspection of the cozy office, similar paintings created by coworkers are scattered throughout the home-turned-business on the corner of California Avenue and West Lincoln Boulevard.
Filler is many things, but her primary title is practice manager for the office of Randy Guinard LCSW, a private therapy and counseling practice that serves dozens of people across Lincoln County. As practice manager her duties are widespread, but in recent years her tasks have involved brainstorming ways in which the office staff can monitor their own mental health and wellness, such as participating in therapeutic group painting nights.
“I had to implement a self-care program here,” Filler said. “We are not helpful to others if we are in crisis ourselves.”
Their private practice is just one that was inundated with patients in need of mental-health services after other local providers — namely the local Western Montana Mental Health Center — closed in the wake of major state budget cuts in 2017.
Nearly $100 million was stripped from the state’s Department of Public Health and Human Services as part of an effort to buffer shortages in revenue. The cuts included a substantial slash to reimbursement rates for case managers — the employees that help patients navigate the health-care system by connecting them to vital community resources and establishing treatment plans.