5 Ways We’re Expanding Mental Health Services On Minnesota’s Iron Range

If you live in rural Minnesota, you may know how hard it can be to access mental health services for yourself or a loved one.

On the Iron Range, for example, there’s only one hospital-based behavioral health unit. It’s located in Fairview Range Medical Center and serves communities in the greater Hibbing area.

Not surprisingly, the need for mental health services consistently rises to the top of the list of the most pressing health care concerns expressed by Fairview’s community partners and residents in northeastern Minnesota. We take that need seriously and are committed to improving access to mental health care in the region.

At Fairview Range Medical Center, we’re expanding mental health services in five key ways:

Enlarging our inpatient behavioral health unit

  • This unit provides services to people with behavioral health diagnoses such as depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
  • With our recent expansion of this unit from 19 to 34 beds, we will serve more than 1,000 adult patients per year and will enable patients and families to stay close to home while receiving critically important care.

Adding an adult partial hospitalization program

  • This program will provide patients with a safe, structured treatment environment that is a step between inpatient and part-time outpatient treatment programs. It helps patients learn how to manage mental illness while balancing work, relationships and other aspects of daily life.
  • We plan to open this program in early 2017.

Providing new outpatient counseling services and outpatient psychiatric nurse practitioners

  • Adult, family, marriage, pediatric and adolescent counselor appointments are available in our Hibbing clinic daily. Counseling also is offered weekly in our Nashwauk clinic.
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioners are available on a weekly basis in all three of our primary care clinics (Hibbing, Nashwauk and Mountain Iron) to assist with medication management.

Becoming certified as “behavioral health home”

  • Our primary care clinic in Hibbing recently was certified by the Minnesota Department of Human Services as a “behavioral health home.” This means that we will have behavioral health clinicians, social workers, community health workers and physicians collaborating with one another and their patients to provide comprehensive care for the whole person. It’s an innovative approach that helps patients get their needs met in an integrated way at a single clinic within their community.

Providing free Mental Health First Aid courses

  • Far too many people with mental illness—up to two thirds—go without treatment. In part, this is due to a knowledge gap. A majority of people—parents, teachers, first responders, friends—simply do not know the signs of mental illness or how to help someone facing a mental health crisis.
  • Fairview is tackling this important issue by improving mental health literacy in communities across Minnesota, including on the Iron Range, through an education program called Mental Health First Aid. This free, eight-hour course helps participants identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and addiction.

I’ve spent an entire career in rural health care, and the need for mental health services has never been greater. Fairview is committed to expanding care and services. It’s all part of helping our communities thrive.

If you have ideas or suggestions on how we can help you meet your health care needs, I invite you to share your comments on this blog.


deb-boardmanDeb Boardman, FACHE, CEO, Fairview Range and Fairview North Region President, provides leadership to the geographic region spanning from Wyoming, Minn., north to the Canadian border. This region includes Fairview Lakes, Fairview Northland and Fairview Range medical centers. Deb has spent her career working in—and promoting issues important to—rural health care. She has been active in national, state and local health care-related organizations, including the American Hospital Association regional policy board and the Minnesota Hospital Association board, where she served for more than a decade on several committees and as board chair. She has been a member of governor-appointed task forces on rural health care issues and has testified before state and federal legislative bodies. Deb also has served on various civic and community boards and currently is secretary of the Minnesota Safety Council board.

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