Innovation and partnerships to address the root causes of illness and using existing resources more effectively to improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs. 

We are dedicated to improving the health status of Montanans and to increasing the quality and accessibility of health services for people across the state. Health disparities – defined as the higher rates of illness experienced by certain populations, including socially or economically disadvantaged families, racial and ethnic minorities, children, and older adults – are a focus of this portfolio.

Many communities, particularly in rural Montana, have limited access to health services, and healthcare workforce shortages and budget shortfalls are widespread. In recent years, Montana has seen per capita health spending rise faster than 41 other states. As health care costs continue to rise, there is a need for innovations that improve health outcomes while also helping to contain costs.

Value-based approaches that seek to realign incentives to produce better outcomes have emerged as a priority in Montana. For example, in the HELP Act that expanded Montana’s Medicaid program, the state legislature mandated that the program reduce costs and improve medical outcomes. The Governor’s Council on Healthcare Innovation and Reform also focused on value-based approaches to health care delivery system and payment reform.

Funding Opportunities

We are currently accepting two types of grant proposals in Partnerships for Better Health: competitive grants submitted under the 2020 Call for Proposals and invited grants submitted under our Housing Is Health Care Initiative.

Housing Is Health Care

Our Work in Partnerships for Better Health

Partnerships for Better Health Grantees

The Montana Racial Equity Project

The Allostatic Load Project

Project Term: 12 months; 2019-2020
Grant Amount: $25,000

This project will research, identify, and connect black, brown, and indigenous people of color to the critical health resources they need to heal from the effects of acute and chronic racism. Along with identifying resources for individuals seeking care across the state, the project will develop a curriculum to train mental and physical health practitioners in multicultural assessment and treatment of black, brown, and indigenous people of color. The project will convene meetings and focus groups with key partners and potential practitioners. These meetings will be provided to stakeholders who will not only offer services at low-to-no cost for referred clients but also assist with the development of a training plan based on their existing knowledge and needs to treat minority patients adequately. Grant funds will be used for travel costs associated with this project, and part of the salary for a part-time employee to conduct the research and develop a training curriculum. The project’s overall goal is to serve the needs of people of color in Montana better and reduce the rates of prevalent racial health disparities in Montana.

Providence Montana Health Foundation

Medical-legal Partnership at Providence St. Patrick Hospital

Project Term: 24 months; 2019-2021
Grant Amount: $100,000

Providence St. Patrick Hospital (SPH), in partnership with the Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA), will launch the state’s first hospital-based medical-legal partnership. To do this, SPH will have a dedicated MLSA staff attorney available to address patients’ civil-legal needs. The staff attorney will provide direct service to patients, in addition to guiding medical providers and social workers in legal matters specific to a patient’s case. The attorney will also offer training on common civil-legal problems and barriers patients face. The three target populations are those who most commonly have civil-legal issues that impede their health, including people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, people with mental illness, and older adults who are socially vulnerable. Hospital staff will refer patients to the attorney for eligibility screening and potential civil legal assistance. Funding will be used to support a portion of the attorney’s salary. Other salary costs and benefits, as well as professional supervision hours and other operational expenses, will be covered by SPH. As similar projects nationally and in Montana have demonstrated, medical-legal partnerships are an innovative, effective way to resolve the social and environmental factors that contribute to health disparities and have a remedy in civil law.

Montana State University Foundation

Working Together to Respond to Farmers & Ranchers Under Stress in Rural Montana

Project Term: 12 months; 2019-2020
Grant Amount: $32,737

This project will create the first statewide network focused on stresses that affect farmers and ranchers in Montana. The project will form a Montana Farm/Ranch Stress Prevention Advisory Council comprising of members from the agricultural, health, tribal, veteran, local government, and Montana State University communities. This council will oversee the creation of an online clearinghouse of stress prevention and mitigation resources as well as a variety of radio/television/podcast/webinar educational resources. Funding will be used to convene the Advisory Council as well as to develop and market the online clearinghouse and educational resources throughout Montana. The project’s goals are to open the conversation about the causes and effects of stress, thereby destigmatizing conversation surrounding this topic, and to equip community members with evidence-based resources to assist them in managing their stress. These goals will ultimately lessen the risk of mental illness and suicide among Montana’s farming and ranching communities.

Montana State University

Dissemination of Rural Perioperative Surgical Home Model and Local Community Capacity Building

Project Term: 24 months; 2019-2021
Grant Amount: $54,260

Montanans lack access to evidence-based perioperative surgical services, which include patient/family education, preoperative testing and assessment, care coordination across referral and specialty providers, provider co-management, and recovery coordination. A fully functional Perioperative Surgical Home (PSH) currently operates at Bozeman Health. This project will extend PSH functions to nine additional Montana counties. The project addresses critical gaps in Montana’s perioperative care through engagement and collaboration with health partners; extension of PSH services; longitudinal tracking and evaluation of health outcomes for rural, remote and isolated patients; and, dissemination of an evidence-based rural model of PSH and a patient flow algorithm to aid other health entities to prepare patients and families for major surgery fully. Funding will be used for four engagement events located strategically among the nine target counties; longitudinal tracking and assessment of health outcomes by county; dissemination of patient outcome assessments back to the county health officials and practitioners. The health advisory council, lead extension specialist, and local extension agents will facilitate new and strengthen partnerships with community hospitals, critical access hospitals, rural health clinics, federally qualified health centers, independent practices, and health workers.

Montana State University Billings

Planning Healthcare Expansion to Address Healthcare Needs to Eastern Montana

Project Term: 12 months; 2019-2020
Grant Amount: $25,000

Montana State University Billings (MSUB) and City College will implement and expand the work already undertaken by the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) and the Montana Office of Rural Health and Area Health Education (MT AHEC) through the Montana HealthCARE Project to address the nursing workforce shortage in eastern Montana. This project will facilitate planning and partnerships to provide opportunities for health care classroom instruction and job placement for students. It will also identify, assess, and address current and future workforce development needs for eastern Montana medical providers. Grant funds will be used primarily to develop a report of the findings from discussions with eastern Montana medical facilities. Partners include Billings Clinic, SCL Health St. Vincent, and Eastern Montana AHEC. The project’s goal is to address the health care shortage that impacts rural areas by providing recommendations for how MSUB can expand their health care programs.