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Montana Health Clinic Receives Federal Grant To Expand Telemedicine Addiction Treatment

Big Horn Valley Health Center
Big Horn Valley Health Center

Health clinic to use telemedicine to expand addiction treatment in Montana.

For the first time ever, federal Farm Bill grants for medicine are being aimed at treating opiod addiction. $188 thousand for that is heading to the Bighorn Valley Health Center in Southeast Montana. 

The clinic plans to use the grant to launch a telemedicine program for rural Montanas struggling with opioid abuse.

David Mark, the CEO of the Bighorn Valley Health Center, says he has the right people, just not in the right places.

“Our sites are separated by hundreds of miles in this frontier region,” Mark said.

Mark says telemedicine will help shorten that distance.

He said he’ll use the grant to buy equipment that’ll connect doctors in bigger towns like Hardin with patients in smaller towns like Harlem.

He has his eyes on a piece of technology called a peripheral that allows physicians to listen to a patient's heart rate or look into their ears remotely.

His doctors will use that equipment to do things like to check up on patients and prescribe them medications like Suboxone, which is used to treat opioid addiction.

This grant comes from more than $10 million of funding that was secured for U.S. Department of Agriculture in last year’s Farm Bill.

The money is to purchase telemedicine equipment that will expand addiction treatment in rural America.

The USDA awards telemedicine grants each year, but this is the first time that money has ever specifically gone to treat opioid addiction.

And Mark says it’ll go a long way for his clinic.

That fancy peripheral he described? He said it used to cost thousands of dollars only a few years ago, but that thanks to the advance of technology, his clinic can get them for about a hundred bucks now.

Montana was an early adopter of telemedicine and providers have since continued to grow telehealth operations.

Copyright 2019 Yellowstone Public Radio

Olivia Reingold is the Tribal Issues Correspondent for Yellowstone Public Radio. She was previously a producer for Georgia Public Broadcasting and participated in the NPR program, “Next Generation Radio.” She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, where she reported on opioids and the 12-step recovery program, Narcotics Anonymous. She’s from Washington D.C. and is particularly interested in covering addiction. She likes to sew, just don’t ask her to follow a pattern.
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