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BSED Invests in Healthcare Education

Jackie Yamanaka

Yellowstone County’s economic development arm is investing $50,000 in several healthcare education and provider projects in Billings. 

Big Sky Economic Development donated the largest amount, $20,000, to Billings Clinic for medical education. The money will go toward its Helmsley Simulation Laboratory and Medical Education Center. The center is for individuals in its internal medicine residency program and for practitioners across the region.

Riverstone Health received $15,000. President and CEO John Felton says Riverstone provides clinical experience for students in Billings and from across the country.

“Over 350 students a year do some part of their training at Riverstone Health,” says Felton. He says this includes doctors in their family medicine residency program, dental students, physician assistants, nurse practioners, and others.

The donation from BSED is to help Riverstone Health expand its Community Health Center

The final recipients are MSU Billings and Rocky Mountain College. Each received $7,500 to help the campuses with marketing efforts in their capital campaigns to build new science buildings.

RMC broke ground last September. Once completed, its physician assistant program will move to the new building.

“We are grateful for this,” says RMC President Bob Wilmouth. “The only thing we ask of the community, and they’ve stepped up, is trust. But it’s on us to earn it.”

MSU Billings has yet to break ground on its project. MSUB Foundation President and CEO Bill Kennedy says to date $11.5 of the $18 million goal has been raised for the new science building. He says the campus will break ground when it raises $15 million.

When completed, the allied health profession program will move into the new facility.

MSU Billings Chancellor Mark Nook says the new science building will complement the Health Science Building at City College at MSU Billings.

“We’re building the foundation for the next century at MSUB,” says Nook. The campus will celebrate its centennial in 10 years. Nook calls the new Yellowstone Science and Allied Health Building the cornerstone for that foundation. “We have to have it if we’re going to move forward. It’s the thing that will help us recruit a different class of students, more students and build our enrollment. Without it we’re going to be in trouble.”

Nook thanked BSED for its support. 

BSED also lent support to MSU Billings for its proposal before the Montana Board of Regents to offer a new program to help registered nurses with an associate’s degree earn a bachelor’s RN degree. The Regents approved the program at their September 2016 board meeting at City College in Billings.

Big Sky Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Steve Arveschoug says the money comes from its Opportunity Fund. He says its boards recognize healthcare is the fastest growing sector in Billings and Yellowstone County.

“It’s a big deal for us,” he says. Arveschoug says healthcare faces many of the challenges facing other employers. “We all have those workforce challenges. But it’s very acute in healthcare because in many cases its life and death.”

BSED estimates in the next 8 years Montana will need nearly 15,557 healthcare workers. Arveschoug says a large chuck of that in Yellowstone County. He says that’s why it’s boards are investing in healthcare education in Billings. The announcement came during BSED’s annual economic summit.