Hospital manager joins mental health board

Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County's Melissa Bates recently was appointed by the Sweetwater County Board of Commissioners to serve on the Board of Directors of Southwest Counseling Services.

"She has a very strong background in mental health," Commissioner Island Richards said during the June 20 meeting. "With her position at the hospital, she brings a wealth of information in this field and would be a good fit for this board."

Bates is the Behavioral Health Manager, working with the Primary Care Specialties of Sweetwater Memorial. She's in her seventh year working at MHSC. She first worked with physicians in the hospital's psychiatric clinic before it closed. She then transferred to the Family Medicine Clinic of Sweetwater Memorial. With her background in behavioral health, she was promoted to Behavioral Health Manager three years ago. She runs the Behavioral Health Integration program for several clinics.

"I applied for the Board of Directors position at Southwest Counseling as a concerned citizen of Sweetwater County," Bates said. "Wyoming has long had the highest suicide rate per capita in the nation.

"Through my suicide prevention work. I've found a common problem that has remained unresolved is access to behavioral health services," she said. "When a person reaches out for help with substance use or other behavioral health issues, the time to act is now. By the time a person asks for help, they are often desperate."

Her aim is to help remove hurdles that get in the way of effective healthcare. As a former Southwest Counseling employee and current employee of MHSC, Bates said she brings unique insight to the board.

"I am well aware of the many services offered by Southwest Counseling," she said. "In my daily work, I help patients access those services, as well as other services throughout our community. I hope to bring to the board the perspective of both a professional and of the people we serve. My overarching goal is to help reduce suicide rates in Sweetwater County by improving access to care."

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