Missoula's Partnership Health Center will take over operation of the Mineral Regional Health Center in Superior, beginning Monday, July 6.
Partnership Health Center is a Missoula County agency that operates community-owned health care centers with a mission to help what executive director Kim Mansch called the “medically under-served.”
Already, it runs a clinic in the Creamery Building in downtown Missoula, as well as at the Poverello Center and another on Alder Street. Mansch said Partnership also runs the Lowell School Clinic and the Seeley-Swan Health Center in Seeley Lake.
In 2014, about 12,500 patients used Partnership for primary health care services.
The Mineral County location will now be known as Partnership Health Center-Mineral County.
Mansch said Mineral Regional Health Center received an access point funding grant about three years ago, intending to improve county residents' access to comprehensive health care services.
She said it's often difficult for smaller rural health centers to accomplish the goals of such grants on their own.
“The compliance for community health centers is very stringent,” she said.
The boards from both Mineral Regional Health and Partnership decided that having Mansch’s organization take over operations was the best way forward to continue to provide services, she said.
“It addressed the financial and travel barriers people have in accessing health care. If they don’t have one, they come to Missoula and put a strain on the services we can offer here,” Mansch said.
In additional to all services currently offered in Mineral County, Mansch said Partnership will add behavioral health service, chronic pain care, case management and diabetes services, as well as a clinical pharmacy.
“Services will certainly be enhanced,” Mansch said. “We have a patient-centered home model where the patient services are all offered under one umbrella.”
Mansch said for the first two weeks of the transition there will be reduced hours at the health center while Partnership trains employees, with the clinic only open in the afternoons. All regularly scheduled appointments will start again July 20.
Mansch said MRHC currently leases space from the separate Mineral Community Hospital, but is in the process of purchasing a new building from the Western Montana Mental Health Center, and will lease it to Partnership to deliver clinical services.
The plan is to begin offering services from the new location on Brooklyn Avenue in Superior in September. All current employees will be become employees of Missoula County, and Mansch said no employee reductions are planned as part of the transition.
In 2013, an investigation showed that Mineral Regional Health Center had misappropriated funds from a $10.5 million grant it was awarded the year before that was designed to implement standardized operations across hospitals, clinics and other care centers in Montana.
It provided training and support for the health care centers that were involved in the network.
The report, by Missoula accounting firm Loren W. Randall P.C., found that salaries appeared to have been incorrectly charged to the grant, as well as a vehicle bought for the health center, among other charges.
About $130,000 from the grant reportedly had to be returned to the federal program. The investigation found that no laws were broken, but blamed poor management and administration.
Mansch said the grant ended in June of this year and Partnership has no role in the allocation of those funds.