MISSOULA – The University of Montana recently secured $5.1 million in federal grants from the Health Resource and Service Administration, leading to the formation of a new UM Office of Health Research & Partnership.

The office will use the HRSA funding for programs to bolster the health care workforce and increase access to quality health care in rural and underserved parts of Montana.

“Communities across Montana are facing difficulty in providing quality health care,” said Scott Whittenburg, UM vice president for research and creative scholarship. “Issues such as substance use disorders, adverse childhood events and chronic disease are particularly challenging. In a diverse and largely rural state like Montana, resources vary widely from community to community. This new office will work with local communities to begin tackling pressing health care challenges.”

The OHRP office is based in Whittenburg’s research administration sector at UM. The office will oversee collaborative and innovative health care-related initiatives, both on campus and with external partners across the state.

The first and largest HRSA grant – nearly $3 million from the Community Health Worker Training Program – will train new and existing community health workers across the state. The training program will expand the public health workforce, increase community health worker employment readiness and enhance the skills of workers to effectively address community health needs

“We will expand and extend Montana’s public health workforce while advancing health equity and supporting underserved communities,” said Kate Chapin, director of the UM Center for Children, Families and Workforce Development.

The effort is a partnership with the new OHRP office, the UM School of Public Health and Community Health Sciences, and the UM Center for Children, Families and Workforce Development (CCFWD).

“We will develop new curriculum and training that will be deployed via CCFWD’s eLearning platform,” Chapin said. “This project will collaborate with several different stakeholders, including Logan Health, Montana Pediatrics, the Montana Primary Care Association, Montana’s Peer Network, Blackfeet Tribal Health and Catalyst for Change.”

The second HRSA grant is $2 million. It will create a demonstration site for a program titled Enhancing Systems for Care for Children with Medical Complexity. Partners in the effort include the OHRP office, the UM Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities, the UM Center for Population Health Research and Montana Pediatrics.

UM and Montana Pediatrics have partnered to develop a model to improve care for children with medical complexity – those who are medically fragile and have intensive care needs. The new model uses the expansion of telemedicine to support parents, caregivers and providers to improve health equity.

“With the use of the telemedicine network – delivered by statewide pediatric experts – families can obtain wraparound health care services in an entirely new way that meets them where they are, reducing the time and monetary costs of travel,” said Jim Caringi, a UM public health professor. “The project will bring pediatric expertise to children who may otherwise have no access to pediatric care, enacting a family centered care-coordination model. This will support and complement Montana’s existing pediatric primary care and pediatric workforce.”

The third grant was funded by the HRSA Rural Health Network Development Planning Program. This $100,000 planning grant will develop a UM Health extension office network in western Montana based on a successful model now used in New Mexico.

“The ultimate goal of this planning grant is to design a health extension office model for the west side of the state that will strengthen local capacity in rural communities by connecting resources at UM to the needs of those communities,” said Lily Apedaile, the health workforce innovation director for UM Health & Medicine.

Partners in this third project will include the OHRP office; the Center for Children, Families and Workforce Development; the Western Montana Area Health Education Center; St. Luke Community Healthcare; the Lake County Health Department; Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Tribal Health; Logan Health; and the Flathead City-County Health Department.

- by UM News Service -

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