What happens to a vacant big-box retail space in a rural community with leaders who have a vision and passion for service? In the case of Shelby, Montana, rural residents here and beyond will benefit with increased access to quality, affordable health care at a new, state-of-the-art clinic.
With residents, staff members and community leaders gathered, the Marias Health Care Clinic opened its doors after a year-long renovation project, creating a larger space to accommodate patient care and administrative and support services for this rural Montana community.
This non-profit, community-based clinic will now be able to provide easier access to primary and preventive, dental, podiatry, behavioral health, optometry, pharmacy, and urgent care services for its more than 5,800 patients in northwestern Glacier, Pondera, Liberty, and Toole Counties. And while Marias serves primarily as an outpatient clinic, it does offer telehealth services to its patients.
“Access to health care is our driving force and we want to eliminate barriers,” said Jamie Brownell, Marias Health Care’s Chief Executive Officer. “We reduce the socio-economic barriers to access and always find a way to serve our patients.”
The Marias project was funded in part by two USDA programs, a $7.6 million Community Facilities Guaranteed Loan through Glacier Bank in Montana, and a $1 million Emergency Rural Health Care grant. Both programs are designed to invest financial resources that help build essential community facilities in rural areas and generate creative solutions for long-term sustainability in rural health care.
“We are a local non-profit organization that strives to make this place a facility where all can come for care,” said Brownell, who has been with Marias for more than 20 years. “We want all people in the community to have the same access to care no matter where they live.”
Designed with input from the health care staff, the facility promotes greater efficiency in delivery of care and can accommodate future growth. Now, medical practitioners and staff can work closer to the community where they live, and patients will have reliable access to quality health care long into the future.