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Published on April 12, 2012

Beartooth Billings Clinic Wins National Rural Health Award

Red Lodge, MT - The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) is proud to announce its 2012 Rural Health Award recipients. These organizations and individuals will be honored April 19 during NRHA’s 35th Annual Rural Health Conference, to be held in Denver.

“We’re especially proud of this year’s winners,” says Alan Morgan, NRHA CEO. “They have each already made tremendous strides to advance rural health care, and we’re confident they will continue to help improve the lives of rural Americans.”

Beartooth Billings Clinic of Red Lodge, Montana will receive the Outstanding Rural Health Organization Award.

In November of 2011, the former Beartooth Hospital and Health Center became Beartooth Billings Clinic and opened doors on a new facility in Red Lodge, Montana. The noteworthy qualities of this effort were not limited to the simple fact of a striking new facility, or the new equipment, or far-reaching benefits of the new electronic medical record. Rather, how this all came about was what made for an award-winning story.

First, planning for a much-needed new facility began in 1998. Twelve years of crafting the best possible partnership with a tertiary medical center 63 miles away (Billings Clinic) resulted in the best of both worlds: A management agreement that offered the integration of a physician clinic, with outstanding technology and administrative support, all while allowing Beartooth to remain independent and community-owned.

Second, financing for the new facility was made possible through a remarkable feat of community fundraising. In a rural Montana county slightly larger than the state of Delaware, with a population of less than 9,000, the Capital Campaign to construct a new facility provided leverage for obtaining a USDA loan. In 2 ½ years, the communities of Carbon County raised over $3 million for a new healthcare facility, and the hospital staff secured an additional $1 million in grants.

"Our success," says Foundation Director Sarie Mackay "is based on the fact that trust, interaction, and participation are what build healthy communities. Carbon County—and Red Lodge in particular—is a place where Montanans can share a vision and come together to make a difference."

In the short time since Beartooth Billings Clinic opened its doors, its staff of 120 healthcare professionals has welcomed numerous Critical Access Hospital management teams who seek to create a similar model that links primary care, outpatient services, beneficial partnerships, and quality. Beartooth Billings Clinic CEO Kelley Evans comments, “While it is a great honor for Beartooth Billings Clinic to be recognized in this way, this is an award to be shared by all the Critical Access Hospitals in Montana and across the United States who are so dedicated to their communities.”

Other nationwide recipients include: Crete Area Medical Center, Nebraska – Rural Health Quality Award; Access Health / Blessing Hospital, Illinois – Outstanding Rural Health Program; Joanne Cochran, PhD, of Chambersburg, PA – Outstanding Achievement in Rural Health Care; Tyler Hughes, MD of McPherson, KS –Rural Health Practitioner of the Year; Therese Zink, MD, Zumbrota, MN – Distinguished Educator of the Year; Timothy D. McBride, PhD, of St. Louis' Washington University – Outstanding Researcher Award; Laci Rector, a University of Colorado dental student, will receive the Student Leadership Award; and finally, Charles Jantzen, a student at the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, will receive the Student Achievement Award.

NRHA’s upcoming Annual Rural Health Conference in Denver is the largest gathering of rural health professionals in the nation. John Snow Inc. provides scholarships to the student awardees to participate in the event.

“Every year, rural Americans come together to gain education and raise awareness on behalf of the 62 million Americans who live in rural areas and desperately need access to affordable health care,” says NRHA's Morgan.

NRHA, a nonprofit organization working to improve the health and well-being of rural Americans, has a nationwide membership of 22,000 individuals and organizations.

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