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USDA Invests in Benefis Hospitals, Inc. Project for Rural Health Care Access

Shelby Johnsen
Release Date

Montana State Director for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Charles Robison today announced that USDA is investing in a Benefis Hospitals, Inc. telemedicine project. USDA is providing the funding through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program.

“The Trump Administration is dedicated to improving rural prosperity, and this telemedicine grant is one way that USDA can improve the quality of life in rural Montana,” Robison said. “This USDA investment will benefit 164,000 rural Montanans in 13 counties and on the Rocky Boy Reservation. Improved telemedicine access will improve healthcare for rural Montanans.”

USDA Rural Development has awarded a $301,547 DLT grant to Benefis Hospitals, Inc. to improve access to specialty medical care for rural Montana residents through the REACH Montana Telehealth Network. The facilities that will receive technology updates and equipment include: Benefis Hospitals in Great Falls, Rocky Boy (Chippewa Cree) Health Center in Box Elder, Benefis Teton Medical Center in Choteau, Big Sandy Medical Center in Big Sandy, Central Montana Medical Center in Lewistown, Liberty Medical Center in Chester, Marias Medical Center in Shelby, Missouri River Medical Center in Fort Benton, Mountainview Medical Center in White Sulphur Springs, Northern Montana Health Care in Havre, Northern Rockies Medical Center in Cut Bank, Phillips County Hospital in Malta, and Pondera Medical Center in Conrad.

“This grant will enable Benefis to offer patients throughout our region access to the most convenient care possible using state-of-the-art telemedicine equipment,” said Mark Simon, Benefis Health System Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer. “We are thrilled about the impact this will have on northcentral Montana.”

 A variety of technology installations and upgrades will be made in the healthcare facilities to provide improved access to specialty medical care. Each rural facility will be equipped with modern telemedicine examination tools and mobile calling stations, improving rural clinic usefulness and efficiency. A complete wireless networking update will be installed in two of the rural facilities to improve wireless network capacity. Five facilities will install modern wiring and additional access points, benefitting wireless telemedicine workstations in clinic rooms.

Applicants eligible for Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants include most State and local governmental entities, federally-recognized tribes, nonprofits, for-profit businesses and consortia of eligible entities.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/mt.