Keeping Billings Clinic’s more than 3,000 downtown employees safe is no small task, and it’s getting bigger each year.
Calls to the clinic's security service are up year over year, in keeping with a trend of growing demand on the public safety resources of the largest employer in Yellowstone County.
Joe Marcotte, safety and emergency management director, thinks the rise in calls is due in part to increased reporting. The clinic works to spread the word about public safety resources on campus, and people are taking note.
But the increase also is due to the fact that Billings Clinic is one of the largest mental health care providers in the area and regularly treats people who are mentally unstable. Sometimes patients who are treated one day will return the next and cause problems.
When this happens, security staff escort the person off of Billings Clinic property. If the disturbance is more serious than clinic security is equipped to handle, they’ll call the Billings Police Department.
And the city’s growing transient population factors in, Marcotte said.
“Downtown has changed in the last 20 years,” he said. “We see a migration, if you will, this direction.”
People are reporting more to the clinic’s security staff than in the past, even for things that might not pose a safety risk, like panhandling.
Clinic staff have taken out shrubbery and added more outside lighting to make areas more visible at night. They add security cameras to the campus regularly. And employees can call for a security officer to walk them to their car at night.
The clinic is in talks with the Billings Police Department, hoping to expand nighttime hours when a BPD officer is on site. Currently one officer is on site at the clinic from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., but the clinic is pushing to expand those hours.
The clinic also maintains eight call posts in parking lots around the campus that can be used for emergency calls or non-emergencies — like if an employee needs their car jumped in the winter. While the posts don’t see much use — no emergency calls have gone through them in the past six months — they are tested each month to make sure they’re working.
If someone makes a call using the emergency button, the call gets routed to the clinic’s internal security service, and patrolling officers can be on site in 30-60 seconds.
“Safety of our staff, our patients, is paramount,” Marcotte said.