Group aims for health center in Big Horn County

Hardin, Montana (AP) January 2011

A private, nonprofit health care corporation has submitted an application to become a Federally Qualified Health Center with the goal of improving health care in Big Horn County.

The Bighorn Valley Health Center earlier this month sent a 168-page application as part of a process that could lead to receiving a grant up to $650,000. The center would also get enhanced Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

CEO Dr. David Mark said center officials won’t know if the designation is approved until summer.

He said the center is needed because nearly half the population in Big Horn County is medically underserved, uninsured or underinsured and can’t get access to primary health care.

“We have found a lot of working poor who are not accessing primary care,” Mark told the Billings Gazette.

The Crow Indian Reservation covers about 65 percent of the county, and the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation about 6 percent.

Mark said many people are not receiving effective care locally, with some seeking help outside the community and others delaying or avoiding preventive care.

He said the center hopes to complement but not compete with existing medical facilities.

“We want to make sure the new kid on the block isn’t disruptive,” Mark said.

The center plans to offer services to everyone, with payment based on a sliding-fee scale based on income.