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Today, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation and Montana Pediatrics
announce a two-year partnership and investment of $1M by the Foundation to increase access to pediatric care for the children of Montana. By expanding the Montana Pediatrics’ after-hours telemedicine program, caregivers of children across the state will no longer face the difficult decision of choosing between expensive urgent care and emergency room visits or the health of their child.

“Today, taking your child to the emergency room for a standard visit will cost around $800,” said Chelsea Bodnar, MD, MPhil, FAAP, a pediatrician, mother, and CEO of Montana Pediatrics. “That’s a hard number to grapple with. Our hope is that nobody feels alone in the middle of the night when trying to weigh the decision of what to do next when their child is sick or needs care.”

Montana’s vast landscape presents a myriad of challenges for accessing care, but for children, the state’s lack of healthcare resources can be devastating. Only 20 of Montana’s 56 counties have a practicing pediatrician, and the distribution of providers heavily skews to the more urban centers and the western half of the state. As a result, children in rural communities commonly receive medical attention from small hospitals and emergency departments that often lack the necessary resources or expertise in pediatric care.

“Removing the financial and geographic barriers Montana families face is critical to the health and well-being of our youth,” said Mike Halligan, Executive Director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. “This partnership will provide a healthier Montana future for all and we are proud to support Montana Pediatrics in providing high-quality pediatric telemedicine care for Montana children and families.”

In 2020, Montana Pediatrics convened a small group of Montana-based pediatric providers to pilot a program where families could access a pediatric-specific alternative to urgent care from their own homes. Now, more than 50% of Montana’s practicing pediatric providers are part of the collaborative network and share on-call responsibilities to ensure pediatric care is available every evening, weekend, and holiday.

Unlike other convenience care, home-based models, Montana Pediatrics is unique in that the after-hours telemedicine program is built to complement the care a child receives from their medical home and maintains a commitment to existing patient-provider relationships.

“We’re not here to replace daytime care, but instead provide appropriate, accessible, and affordable care in the times and spaces when primary care is not available,” said Dr. Bodnar. “For any family who accesses care from an after-hours visit, their primary care provider will have detailed notes from the visit by the next morning. We’re fiercely committed to continuity of care. It doesn’t matter who the child’s provider is or how late at night we saw the child, we believe every provider should always be in the loop about their own patients.”

In the past few years, Montana Pediatrics has been rapidly growing, but in 2023 alone, the non-profit organization has already served more than 150 families with after-hours care for needs like fevers, stomachaches, ear infections, respiratory infections, bumps, bruises, rashes, and more. Outside of truly life-threatening emergencies, Montana Pediatrics is an avenue for most all pediatric-related urgent care needs and organization leaders often speak to how much can truly be accomplished via telemedicine-based care.

With the additional funding from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, Montana Pediatrics plans to focus specifically on increasing after-hours care in communities where pediatric-specific care is sparse or non-existent. By the end of 2024, the organization hopes to serve families and their children from all 56 counties.

“We know access to health care is challenging for families in rural Montana, and Montana Pediatrics plays a significant role in filling that gap,” said Craig Lambrecht, MD, Logan Health President & CEO and current Chair of the Montana Pediatrics Board of Directors. “This investment by The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation will not only help the organization expand its reach but truly impact the lives of children and families across Montana for generations to come.”

To learn more about Montana Pediatrics, create a free account for your child, or access care, visit montanapediatrics.org.

About the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation

The Foundation strives to better the human condition by supporting programs and services that give people the tools to enhance the quality of their lives and to benefit society as a whole. Funding for the Foundation comes from personal contributions from the Washington family and annual contributions from The Washington Companies.

About Montana Pediatrics

Montana Pediatrics’ is a technology-enabled statewide network of pediatric providers who are on a mission to improve access to health care and health equity for all of Montana’s children. Montana Pediatrics operates with a culture of collaboration and a commitment to ensuring every child in Montana has access to quality, affordable, and consistent healthcare.