Northwest Community Health Center
Libby, MT

It is my honor to nominate Maria Clemons for the Dr. Frank Newman Rural Health Leadership Award. Maria, who currently serves as Northwest Community Health Center’s CEO, has been unwavering in her commitment toward patient-centered healthcare. Maria is a leader who has demonstrated her commitment to rural health through her work on behalf of Lincoln County.

Maria began working for Northwest when it opened its doors 18 years ago. She has overseen the growth of the Northwest from an office with one provider to a health center providing integrated care with nine medical providers, four behavioral health consultants, and two dental providers. Today, the health center cares for nearly half of the people in Lincoln County annually. In addition to integrated medical, dental, behavioral health, and pharmacy services, the center also provides case management, legal, and WIC Supplemental Nutrition services.

Maria’s leadership is rooted in the foundational beliefs of the health center movement, and her impact extends beyond the four walls of the health center throughout Northwest Montana. Over the years, she has provided leadership for many of her community’s needs; helping people affected by the asbestos, a high number of teen pregnancies, ensuring access to affordable prescription drugs, and shower and laundry facilities for those in need. Maria is a fierce, thoughtful, and innovative advocate for her community.

In addition to the normal challenges rural areas face - limited internet and cell phone access, geographic distance, and travel in harsh weather - Maria has navigated politically sensitive challenges that often crop up in rural communities with professional grace and never falters to keep the health of all the people in her county as her north star.

In addition to her work at Northwest, Maria participates in numerous local community organizations. She has also served on statewide and regional workgroups statewide, providing a rural perspective on family planning, Health Information Exchange, Medicaid, and health justice.

Maria embodies Dr. Newman’s commitment to rural health – and belief that rural communities have the capacity to support high quality healthcare. She has lived that commitment through her work. Thank you for your consideration of Maria for this award.

Nominator: Cindy Stergar, Montana Primary Care Association