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Montana Area Health Education Centers
Connecting student to careers, professionals to communities, and communities to better health
The AHEC program was developed by Congress in 1971 to recruit, train and retain a health professions workforce committed to underserved populations. Grants to fund AHECs were always made to the medical school(s) within the states. The only exception to this has been the University of Washington School of Medicine (UWSM). In this case, the federal government provided funding to the UWSM to start AHECs in Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, all partners in the Regional WWAMI program.
On October 1st, 1985, the Montana AHEC was implemented. This regional WWAMI AHEC office was located at Montana State University in Bozeman. In September 2007, under new rules allowing Colleges of Nursing to apply for AHEC grants, the MSU College of Nursing applied and was awarded a grant from the Health Resource Service Administration to establish four regional AHEC offices in Montana in addition to the Bozeman Program Office.
In 2007, the first two centers were established. The South Central Regional AHEC was set up in Dillon under the auspices of the Montana Hospital Association and the Eastern Regional AHEC was set up in Billings at RiverStone Health. The Western Regional AHEC, located in Missoula and hosted by the University of Montana, was established in September 2008. In January 2010, the fourth and final center, the North Central Regional AHEC, was established in Cut Bank, Montana.
Once in place, each center has up to six years of funding that will total approximately $1.5 million. After six years of startup funding, the centers receive a more modest grant and are expected to be self-sufficient. Each region has a director/program manager, an established regional advisory council, and works to develop healthcare workforce strategies for their own region.
MT AHEC System Regional Map
Regional AHEC Contact Information
123 S. 27th Street
Billings, MT 59101
Director: Jane Nelson
10 West Reeder - PO Box 872
Dillon, MT 59725
Director: Lisa Benzel
The University of Montana
Skaggs Building Rm. 173
Missoula, MT 59812
Director: Larry White
201 First Ave. N.
Fairfield, MT 59436
Director: Jody Haines
Montana AHEC Mission
The mission of the Montana AHEC is "to improve the supply and distribution of heath care professionals, with an emphasis on primary care, through community/academic educational partnerships, to increase access to quality health care."
Goals, Objectives and Activities
The mission of the Montana AHEC is accomplished by pursuing goals, objectives and activities which are common to all AHECs. These are changed and/or modified each year in response to decisions made by the federal granting agency and the Regional WWAMI AHEC Program Office at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The following guidelines are used in establishing annual goals, objectives and activities.
Form productive linkages between healthcare units to the benefit of underserved and rural communities.
Foster and encourage collaborative community-based health programs.
Increase the number of minority and underserved youth entering health education programs.
Serve as a resource, clearinghouse and disseminatory of health information.
Promote improved health and disease prevention through educational interventions.
Respond to emerging community-based needs regarding health issues.
Provide technical assistance on healthcare-related issues to underserved communities.
Help implement collaborative community-based, multidisciplinary education and training for health professionals and health professions students.
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Kristin Juliar, Director
Montana Office of Rural Health
Dedicated to improving access to quality health care for rural Montana by providing collaborative leadership and resources to healthcare and community organizations
State Offices of Rural Health
The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy was established in 1987. The Office of Rural Health Policy coordinates activities related to rural health care within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Since 1991, the Office of Rural Health Policy has awarded and administered grants to each of the 50 states through the State Offices of Rural Health (SORH) grant program. The SORH program is a federal-state partnership to help rural communities build their health services through public and private partnerships and initiatives in rural health development. The SORH grant program is authorized by Section 338J of the Public Health Service Act, 42 U.S.C. 254r.
Montana Office of Rural Health
Development of the Montana Office of Rural Health (MORH) was started in 1987 in partnership with the Montana Area Health Education Center (Montana AHEC). On April 30, 1991, Governor Stan Stephens designated Montana State University as the state entity to submit the Montana application for federal funding through the SORH grant program. In 1991, the MORH received federal funding through the SORH grant program. On March 19, 1992, the Board of Regents of the Montana University System recognized the designation of the MORH as a program of Montana State University.
The mission of the MORH is "to serve its communities through: (1) collecting and disseminating information within the state, (2) improving recruitment and retention of health professionals into rural areas, (3) providing technical assistance to attract more federal, state, and foundation funding for rural health, and (4) coordinating rural health interests and activities across the state."
All of the SORH are required to conduct activities which will accomplish three core and two additional functions:
- Establish and maintain a State clearinghouse for collecting and disseminating information on rural health care issues, research findings related to rural health care, and innovative approaches to the delivery of health care in rural areas.
- Coordinate activities carried out in the state that relate to rural health care; including providing coordination to avoid duplication in such activities.
- Identify Federal, State and nongovernmental programs regarding rural health and provide technical assistance to public and nonprofit entities regarding participation in such programs.
- Encourage recruitment and retention of health professionals in rural areas.
- Participate in strengthening State, local and Federal partnerships in rural health.
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Natalie Claiborne, Assistant Director