Tester finds funding for H.S. Clinic

A first major step towards funding a new medical clinic in Hot Springs occurred recently with the announcement that $300,000 has been approved by the U.S. Senate Appropriates Committee.

Andre Helling from Montana Senator Jon Tester's office confirmed that the comittee had approved legislation along with projects from Fort Benton, Salish Kootenai College and Fort Peck to improve healthcare infrastructure in rural communities. Tester is a member of that key committee.

Jim Rexhouse, executive director of the Sanders County Community Development Corporation, had submitted the appropriation request in February and received a call last week confirming that $300,000 had been approved as part of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriation Act. The next step to secure full funding would be passage of the act by the full senate and then the House of Representatives before the funding bill can be signed into law by President Obama.

A meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 17 in Hot Springs with Alpha Lillstrom, Legislative Assistant on Tester's Washington D.C. staff and interested community members.

Rexhouse said although the appropriation was not all that had been asked, it was a great step forward and he ws very grateful to Tester's staff for the work they had done to ensure passage.

In May he submitted a Public Facilities CDBG grant for $400,000 and expects rankings among 16 projects submitted to be announced in October.  He is pursuing funding through the USDA for an additional $500,000. Some additional funding will be sought through grants and low interest loans.

The clinic facility is owned by the Eastern Sanders County Hospital District and operated by Clark Fork Valley Hospital. Plans which have been developed with a grant and matching funds from those enitities call for a new building that will include more exam rooms, a lab, facilities and waiting rooms.  The price tag on the project is just under $1 million so Rexhouse stated they have a ways to go this "very important project."

The hospital district has been pursuing funding for some time for rebuilding the clinic.  Deb Green, the Family Medicine Network Director at CFVH was pleased with the news and credited Ray Flesch and the rest of the Hospital District board for steering the project the past couple of years.

"It's great news, but there is a long way to go," said Green. "We are all working on other funding sources and creative ways to fine matching funds for the project."
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