CHP gets $63K to fight coronavirus

Justin Post — Enterprise Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
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Enterprise photo by Nate Howard

Ashley Barkman, a medical assistant at Community Health Partners, asks visitors to fill out a questionnaire upon entering the health clinic Wednesday morning.

Community Health Partners — which has sites in Livingston, Bozeman, Belgrade and West Yellowstone — is receiving $63,216 in federal funding to help in the fight against COVID-19.

The award is part of an $810,430 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to the state of Montana, according to a news release from U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.

The $810,430 is being divided between 14 Community Health Centers, or CHCs, across Montana and will help them with testing and screening, boosting telehealth capacity and acquiring medical supplies, the release said.

Community Health Partners, or CHP, plans to use the federal award primarily to make upgrades that will allow doctors to meet by telephone or video with patients from the comfort of their homes, said Buck Taylor, the public information officer for the CHP COVID-19 response.

Taylor said CHP is in the process of setting up the technology, which must meet federal patient information privacy standards, in Livingston. 

CHP already uses this technology to connect residents of West Yellowstone with behavioral medical professional in Bozeman. There are no behavioral health professionals living in West Yellowstone, and Taylor said technology has helped bridge that gap between patient and medical professional.

“That’s been a huge game changer to be able to bring that service to far flung communities,” he said.

Visiting with a doctor by video may be new to some patients who are used to visiting with a doctor or other medical professional at the clinic, but Taylor said the technology will help protect patients and staff.

Taylor said CHP has an adequate supply of personal protective equipment during the ongoing COVID-19 response, but said it’s working with various vendors to procure additional supplies.

The $63,216 in funding awarded to CHP is part of an effort by Tester to set aside some $100 million to help CHCs around the country prepare for COVID-19.

“Montana is staring down the barrel of this pandemic, and it’s our Community Health Centers that will be on the front lines when it comes to testing and treating Montanans,” Tester said in a statement. “These centers are already in a pinch even though they’re often the primary care providers in their communities, and this funding is critical so they have more resources to protect the folks they serve.”

Tester recently asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to act in securing long-term funding for CHC, the release said.

CHC funding expires May 22 and Tester has sought to ensure that the needs of Montana hospitals are met in a future coronavirus spending package, the release said.

Tester has also ask the Trump Administration to make medical gear accessible to rural states such as Montana and has encouraged the Federal Communications Commission to boost telehealth access in rural areas, the release said.

The funding will be split across 14 Montana CHCs: 

Bighorn Valley Health Center (Hardin) - $58,290

Bullhook Community Health Center (Havre) - $54,113

Butte-Silver Bow Primary Health Care Clinic (Butte) - $62,149

Great Falls Community Health Care Center (Great Falls) - $50,464

Community Health Partners Clinic (Livingston) - $63,216

Flathead County Community Health Center (Kalispell) - $60,596

Glacier Community Health Center (Cut Bank) - $52,656

Lincoln County Community Health Center (Libby) - $57,647

Marias Health Care Services (Shelby) - $55,780

Missoula County Community Health Center (Missoula) - $69,383

Montana Migrant & Seasonal Farm Workers Council (Billings) - $57,314

PureView Health Center (Helena) - $50,464

Sapphire Community Health Center (Hamilton) - $52,111

Yellowstone City-County Health Department (Billings) - $66,247