Big Sky Roundup

Montana launches new institute to improve quality of life for residents

By: - March 9, 2021 8:44 am

The home page of the Montana Public Health Institute.

Montana joined the ranks of more than 30 states with the launch of the Montana Public Health Institute in 2020.

MTPHI aims to strengthen Montana’s public health system capacity, focusing on its rural, frontier and tribal communities and supporting sound health policy and funding. MTPHI’s work began with programs and services that support Montana’s local and tribal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of work went into envisioning how we could strengthen the public health system and build
new partnerships to improve the health of all Montanans,” said Dr. Aaron Wernham, chief executive of Montana Healthcare Foundation. “Montana communities will benefit from the type of support that can be provided by a nonprofit organization that is nimble and innovative. Seeing the Montana Public Health Institute come to fruition is an exciting step for public health in Montana.”

With the response to COVID-19 consuming much of the focus and capacity within the public health system, MTPHI has assembled a team of public health professionals to offer technical assistance to local and tribal health departments. The wide variety of services provided includes help with public information and communications, adoption of COVID-19 related technology, use of data and metrics, documents to support communities and health department operations during the pandemic, and mentorship and leadership support.

MTPHI is also working to support the increased need for behavioral health services. It is developing marketing materials for counseling services available to those impacted by COVID-19, facilitating a learning community of behavioral health crisis coordinators, and providing programmatic support to communities working to strengthen local and statewide behavioral health crisis systems.

“We recognize the needs of local and tribal health departments can vary across the state, and
therefore, so does the form of support we provide,” said Matt Kelley, MTPHI’s Board Chair.

The Montana Healthcare Foundation funded a feasibility study that led to the Institute’s creation
and continues to support its development with a $1.85 million grant during the course of four years.

Montana-based Population Health Partners, led by Jane Smilie, worked alongside the National Network
of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI) to support the new public health institute’s design and

“I am thrilled that the Montana Public Health Institute is now part of our growing network of dedicated professionals working to improve the public’s health across the country, especially in the rural, frontier and tribal communities,” said Vincent Lafronza, President and CEO of NNPHI. “NNPHI has been honored to be part of the development process for MTPHI and looks forward to our collaborative efforts ahead.”

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