Montana Public Health Institute Start Up

Project Term: 60 months; 2020-2025
Grant Amount: $1,850,000

This grant will fund the creation of the Montana Public Health Institute (MPHI). Over the last six years, we have worked with stakeholders around the state to find ways to strengthen Montana’s public health system. Based on this work, we published a 2019 report, “Creating a Vision for a Healthier Montana: Strengthening the Montana Public Health System.  The report identified public health institute functions that are not currently provided by any other public health entity, such as providing “surge capacity” to respond to public health emergencies; supporting small, rural health departments by procuring grants, and assisting with technical assistance and management of funds; and carrying out rigorous, non-partisan analysis of Montana’s public health system and opportunities to strengthen it. The report concluded with a recommendation to design and start a public health institute in Montana. With consultants from Montana (Jane Smilie) and the National Network for Public Health Institutes (NNPHI), we are now supporting the work of the MPHI Design Team comprising stakeholders from Montana’s county, tribal, state, academic, and non-profit public health organizations. The Design Team recently approved a strategic plan for the MPHI and has started work on establishing the organization.

The COVID-19 pandemic creates an urgent need for services that a public health institute can provide. An MPHI will aid our state’s response, guide and support the recovery, and analyze lessons from this crisis to assist in building a more effective public health system. DPHHS has requested that MPHI—once formed—assist with administering certain federal grants expected in the next two months that DPHHS does not have the capacity to administer.
To achieve an accelerated startup, the Design Team nominated members to serve as a founding board of directors; the board will incorporate the MPHI as a Montana non-profit in late April 2020. The new MPHI will implement the long-term strategic plan developed by the Design Team, and it will play an immediate and critically needed role in COVID-19 response and recovery. Key partners include DPHHS, county and tribal public health departments, Montana’s public health associations, and the Montana University System.

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