Because every woman deserves specialized care
A new program will expand obstetric care to expecting mothers in rural Montana
St. James Healthcare will be participating in a new program aimed at ensuring moms and babies in Granite and Powell counties are healthy from preconception, to pregnancy, delivery and beyond. The program, Maternal Health Connection, will begin providing women with high quality prenatal care and careful management of conditions beginning September 2023.
The program is funded by a grant from the Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies Program, otherwise known as RMOMS, awarded by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. Intermountain Health was one of four recipients nationwide in 2022 to receive an RMOMS award. The grant provides nearly $1 million per year over four years for a total of $3.9 million to help increase access to obstetric services and improve outcomes such as preterm labor, low birthweight, infant mortality and more in southwestern Montana.
In a rural state with a severe healthcare worker shortage and geographic expanse that forces pregnant women to travel vast distances to receive care, Montanans face an even greater risk as pregnancy complications are rising nationwide.
“Pregnancy can be a difficult time in a woman's life, and current economic and geographic challenges do not make it any simpler," explains Dr. Ibrahim Hammad, MD, Maternal and Fetal Medicine, Intermountain Health. "It is part of our responsibility as healthcare professionals not only to provide counseling and treatment in clinics and hospitals, but also to reach out to our patients in an effort to ease and reduce their burden. This program is designed to bring maternal care closer to, if not to, the household.”
In communities such as Philipsburg, Deer Lodge, and Drummond, an expecting mom might need to travel 30 miles to see a primary care provider and more than 60 miles to see a specialist. This travel, when possible, often means time away from work and family as well as lost income. As a result of these barriers, many women choose to go without adequate prenatal or postpartum care.
“Our mission is to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes in rural Montana. We know these families have no choice but to travel to Butte, Anaconda, and Missoula to receive care,” said Krystal Richards, RMOMS Grant Project Director for Intermountain Health. “I’m excited to bring choice to these families and ultimately develop a financially viable model that can be replicated in any maternal health desert.”
The grant specifically hopes to:
- Increase the number of women engaged in preconception through postpartum care
- Improve health outcomes for women of childbearing age as they access services and have access to specialty care via telehealth
- Improve early identification of high-risk pregnancies and the development of appropriate care plans
- Increase the rate of pregnant women with birth plans
- Decrease the local rate of maternal morbidity and mortality
- Improve the viability of local healthcare, including obstetric services
- Grow the obstetric support workforce
Maternal Health Connection will offer a hybrid of telehealth services with access to maternal-fetal specialists and OB-GYNs and in-person patient care delivered by certified nurse midwives (CNMs) and registered nurses in their communities and directly to them in their homes.
A community health nurse has been hired, and two CNMs from Intermountain Health are in place to begin providing services in September. The program plans to expand over the next three years to include two birth doulas, sonographers, genetic counseling, and lactation consultants.
Our goal is to ensure women receive quality care while keeping them close to their communities. I am excited to be able to offer women throughout southwest Montana the comprehensive care they need.
St. James Healthcare is one of nine participating partners in Maternal Health Connection. Intermountain Health, which applied for the grant prior to the merger with SCL Health, will also be working closely with Granite County Medical Center and its two rural health clinics, Deer Lodge Medical Center and its rural health clinic, Southwest Montana Community Health Center, Healthy Granite County Network, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, the Montana Medicaid Office, and Healthy Montana Families.
About St. James Healthcare and Intermountain Healthcare
St. James Healthcare has served the people of Southwestern Montana for more than 135 years and is the largest and only acute care health care facility in the region. St. James Healthcare is a 67-bed hospital located in Butte, Montana, with more than 450 caregivers, alongside 100 physicians and advanced care professionals, offering 24-hour care and dozens of progressive specialty services. St. James Healthcare is part of the Intermountain Healthcare system. Based in Utah with locations in seven states (Montana, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming) and additional operations across the western U.S., Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit healthcare system comprised of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,800 employed physicians and advanced practice providers. To help people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. To learn more about St. James Healthcare, visit sjh-mt.org.