Bozeman, Mont., Dec 13, 2016 – The Montana Healthcare Foundation (MHCF) today announced more than $600,000 in new grants to improve American Indian health in Montana. American Indian people in Montana experience significant health disparities, including a median age at death of 50 years (roughly 20 years earlier than non-Indian Montanans), and elevated rates of heart disease, cancer, injuries, and other illnesses. To address these health challenges, MHCF works directly with tribes and urban Indian health centers to develop long-term, effective solutions.
“These new grants build on two years of initial investments in American Indian health and close collaboration with tribal health leaders,” said Dr. Aaron Wernham, CEO of MHCF. “MHCF is honored to support the dedicated, innovative work of the tribal and urban Indian health program directors in Montana.”
Over the past year, MHCF has supported quarterly meetings of the state’s tribal and urban Indian health directors. These grants respond directly to high priority areas identified by these leaders. Common themes in the work the Foundation has funded include supporting resources for Native women struggling with addiction while pregnant, helping tribes open school-based clinics, providing resources for treating substance use disorders, and assisting tribal health centers with establishing billing and coding systems. Examples of the grants funded in 2016 include:
- The Blackfeet Tribe will create a centralized third party billing office that will allow the tribe to maximize revenue from the health services they currently provide as a foundation for creating a strong, tribally-led health system.
- The Fort Peck Tribes will develop a business plan for a new inpatient chemical dependency treatment center to compliment Spotted Bull Recovery Center’s current outpatient facility on the Fort Peck Reservation.
- Saint Vincent Healthcare will provide case management and program coordination for pregnant Native American women on the Northern Cheyenne reservation who are struggling with addiction by developing a program that creates supportive, integrated access to perinatal care and addiction treatment.
- Billings Clinic, in partnership with the Crow, Northern Cheyenne, and Fort Peck health systems, will create an American Indian Healthcare Advocate Program to directly address insurance participation and health care access on the reservations.
MHCF supports American Indian health through grant funding as well as leadership, convening, capacity building, technical assistance, and research. To date, MHCF has invested over $1.3 million to improve American Indian health and has given grants to six of the seven tribal health centers and two of the five urban Indian health departments.