UM, state partnership garners $16M to provide health care for Montana families

A University of Montana partnership with the state has proved doubly lucrative, supporting Montana families’ health needs while garnering nearly $16 million in grants to fund health-related programs.

The state-UM partnership has received 12 competitive federal grants that help small rural hospitals, mental health therapists, doctors and clinics – and even public schools – that often lack a grant writer on staff to secure much-needed money.

“Within one year, we got $16 million,” said Ryan Tolleson Knee, executive director of the Center Children, Families and Workforce Development at UM. “I have internal people who work for me as grant writers. If they don’t have the personnel, we try to build infrastructure to help with grant-writing.”

Headwaters Health Foundation of Western Montana provided funding for the center’s grant-writing team for the past year. Most of the $16 million in grants will support families in small towns who struggle with geographic barriers to access to health care.

But any individual can request telehealth services, which allow parents to confer with medical experts on Skype or Zoom video platforms.

“It can be anyone in western Montana who can get the telehealth consultation free of charge on specific topic areas without any cost,” said Tolleson Knee.

For example, if a child suffers from depression or anxiety, parents can access a teleconference call with various Montana experts, such as a licensed addiction counselor, a social worker or a doctor.

“We converse about very specific topics … and a network of experts can provide consultation to them and help,” he added.

Basically, the center and program fill crucial gaps.

“Montana’s small towns have fewer resources to compete for federal grant funding that can benefit their children and families,” he said. “This program is bridging that divide to help equalize the playing field and ensure greater equity between Montana’s rural and urban communities.”

Headwaters Foundation, a nonprofit, has renewed its support of the program for the coming year. New grants will fund the following projects:

  • The Montana Access to Pediatric Psychiatry Network, which secured $2.8 million in 2018 from the Health Services and Resources Administration. MAPP-Net supports rural primary care providers through expert consultation and guidance from pediatric psychiatrists. The program provides intensive mental health care to children living in rural communities and gives rural providers the support to provide high quality treatment.
  • The Montana Obstetric and Maternal Support Program, with a $9.6 million grant to improve maternal health in rural Montana through telehealth innovations. In September 2019, HRSA funded The Center for Children, Families and Workforce Development worked with Montana DPHHS to design the project and support it.
  • A Centers for Disease Control $1.5 million grant – in partnership with Montana Department of Department of Public Health and Human Services – improves Montana’s maternal mortality review process.
  • A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services $1.9 million grant to expand the Title X Family Planning Program.

For more information, visit the center’s website by following this link or call 406-243-5465.

Contract Business Reporter Renata Birkenbuel at 406-565-0013 and renatab@missoulacurrent.com.