The Montana Healthcare Foundation announced that it recently committed at least $5 million over the next 10 years to support new partnerships between schools and health care providers to create school-based health centers in communities that need them most.

Executive Director Aaron Wernham provided more details of the initiative.

“We're going to be partnering with schools and rural health centers and other health care providers to try to provide health services in school for students in high need communities,” said Wernham. “We're really trying to target the schools and communities where there are lower graduation rates, kids not doing so well in school, schools that have a lot of out of school suspensions, places where we know that if we can get kids some some health care, they may be able to do better in school and be healthier to boot.”

Wernham further detailed the Foundation’s initiative.

“We'll be looking to create new partnerships between a clinical care provider and that would usually be something like a rural health center or a federally qualified health center or a Tribal Health Center to partner with a school,” he said. “We'd be giving the grant to the clinical provider but then providing technical assistance to both the school and the health care side to help them put together a plan and then form a new set of school health services.”

Wernham said this initative has been in the planning stages since long before the COVID 19 pandemic.

“This is long term,” he said. “We've been planning this for a couple of years now and doing some early work with some school districts on it, and just it's been really successful. When you see these clinics get up and running, the help that they give teachers and administrative staff of schools to help kids that are having trouble with attendance and academics just by helping them get healthier, so they can focus better in school.”

The initiative is currently undergoing an official name and branding process. Montana Health Care Foundation will announce more information about the initiative and the first cohort of grantees later this year.

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