The Saratoga Sun -

Holding up a mirror

Brittney Parmeter now providing mental health services at Platte Valley Clinic


February 12, 2020

Joshua Wood

Brittney Parmeter has lived in Saratoga for three years and is now providing mental health services at Platte Valley Clinic.

Access to mental health is just one of many issues that rural areas such as Wyoming are forced to deal with. With mental health providers often located in more populous towns, it leaves a lengthy drive time for rural residents in need of those services. This is if they have a vehicle and are able to take the time off work for the trip.

In fact, according to a study from Mental Health America, Wyoming has an overall ranking of 47. This means that the Cowboy State has a higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care. According to the Rural Health Information Hub, one of the biggest barriers to access of care is lack of reliable transportation.

Brittney Parmeter, however, is hoping to reduce the distance that people will have to travel for their mental health care. 

Parmeter, who has lived in Saratoga for three years, received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology in Human Development and Family Sciences from Oregon State. Later, she received her Master's of Science in Clinical Mental Health from the University of Wyoming. In addition to her education, Parmeter is also certified to practice mental health counseling in Wyoming.

Originally from a small town in Oregon, Parmeter said that she wasn't quite prepared for what to expect in Wyoming when it came to providing mental health services.

"What is one of the things I love the most and is super incredible about Wyoming I can see can be a struggle," said Parmeter. "We're a frontier state and we've got a lot of land and a lot of ranches and just this amazing wonderful way of life and it's super tough to get services of a lot of different kinds."

For Parmeter, just traveling from Saratoga to Laramie showed her the differences between the two Wyoming towns in terms of access to care.

"It is a little bit different, even just from Saratoga to Laramie where you have a little bit better access out there to a lot of services," Parmeter said. "It doesn't mean that people don't need them, though, or that because maybe your town isn't quite as large it's not as important."

It is partly because of that limited service that Parmeter has started to practice in Saratoga and is now providing services at the Platte Valley Clinic.

"I think the reason, one, that this is important and, secondly, I'm just super passionate about it is because people out here still need services and I'm happy to stay here and provide that. I think it's critical that we have that," said Parmeter.

She added that in a state like Wyoming, in which outdoor recreation plays such a large part in people's lives, the winters can be hard on someone's mental health. This doesn't just mean whether or not someone can go outside, but also whether or not someone can access the services they need.

"We thrive being outside and it is beautiful in the summers and winters can get kind of tough and both being able to physically access services and just kind of get them when you need them is super important," Parmeter said.

Practicing in a small community does have its difficulties. A major test for Parmeter came in the later half of 2019.

"2019 was rough and personally knowing people that died by suicide was tough and then also having to sort of put on a different hat. You put on the counseling hat. When the school calls and says, 'The day before school we've had this tragedy' I was wearing my community member, my mom hat. My son's friend. You know these people, you know these kids," said Parmeter. "I think, for me, it's how can I regulate and help in the hat I'm wearing at that time. For a lot of this, I was a mom and a community member and then stepping into the counselor role when it was needed. I think there's some good to be had there because you generally care and you know these people and that is a good thing."

Even with how difficult 2019 was for people in the Valley, Parmeter says a stigma still exists with mental health. Despite that stigma, however, she has found that people are open to using her services.

"One thing that has come up and that I like to address right away is-because it's not just a small town, but we're in a small district, we're in a small state-confidentiality is huge and I just like to address that upfront and that seems to help a little bit," Parmetere said. "Even little things like, 'We're going to see each other at the grocery store and here's how I'm going to act. I'm going to give you your freedom and your choice of if you want to interact or not but that's for you. I'm not going to put you in that position or seek you out.'"

While Parmeter wants to impress the importance of confidentiality to those who may want to use her services, she also wants them to know that she is there to help.

"It's your time and I firmly believe you are the expert to you. I am there to maybe help work some stuff out, maybe help hold up a mirror if you need it. I think of me as more of a tool in your toolbox," said Parmeter. "It's hard to step through that door, so whatever I can do to help with all you've got going on, that's what I'm going to do. And that looks very different for each person."

Most importantly for Parmeter, she wants to remind people that they are not alone and that they matter.

"Just you being who you are in the world affects everyone else in such a good way that you don't even know and that matters," Parmeter said. "All of us just need to be heard every once in a while. I feel very grateful to be here and be in that kind of community."

Those who may be interested in seeing Parmeter can contact her at 307-329-3843.


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