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As Health Care Demands Grow, So Do Hospitals
Kalispell and Whitefish hospitals adding new programs, clinics
The Newman Center, a new outpatient mental health center, is located in Suite C of the Northwest Professional Center on the Kalispell Regional Healthcare campus. - Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon
As the Flathead Valley’s economic landscape continues to adapt to life after the recession, the health care industry continues to grow as one of the strongest in the county. With this in mind, both of the valley’s major hospitals are planning service expansions to meet growing demands from the Flathead’s unique demographics.

At Kalispell Regional Healthcare, the parent company for Kalispell Regional Medical Center and its many affiliated health service companies, an effort to better understand the needs of the local community has resulted in opening two new clinics.

In Kalispell, the push for more options for mental health patients is manifest in the Newman Center, the new outpatient service from Pathways Treatment Center. And in Lakeside, KRH recently opened the Westshore Medical Clinic to give area residents easier access to health care and another gym option.

Jim Oliverson, vice president at KRMC, said the Newman Center is the result of a valley-wide community health needs assessment performed with KRMC, North Valley Hospital in Whitefish, and the Flathead City-County Health Department.

The assessment found that the demand for more mental health services is high.

“The thing that kept coming up to the top was that there is a profound need for outpatient mental health services,” Oliverson said.

The Newman Center staffs a psychiatrist, a nurse practitioner, and a licensed clinical social worker to work with adolescents and adults.

The outpatient center is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The new Westshore Medical Clinic opened in December, and is the result of talking to KRH employees and clients who wanted clinical and gym options closer to the Lakeside, Somers and Rollins area, Oliverson said.

Oliverson said there are at least 60 KRH employees living in that area, with an annualized payroll at a little over $3.25 million.

“(The clinic) was a natural progression,” Oliverson said. “We had folks telling us that ‘We love you, but we really hate that drive (to Kalispell).’”

The hospital was able to remodel an existing building instead of constructing a new one, and the clinic is set up for basic lab procedures, including an X-ray machine.

West shore residents also asked for gym access like that of The Summit, which is part of the KRH complex in Kalispell, Oliverson said, resulting in the Westshore Medical Fitness Center powered by The Summit.

Oliverson also said the long drive to Kalispell is the reason for breaking ground at a new clinic in Polson, which will staff two physicians and have more room for the visiting specialists.

The current Polson clinic is too small for its current operations, he said.

“It’s a good problem to have, if you get to the point where you have to grow,” Oliverson said.

At North Valley hospital in Whitefish, there’s a new capital campaign to not only expand the birthing center, but also to fund the hospital’s outreach clinics, which are experiencing growing pains of their own. There is also a new program aimed at improving the quality of life for the valley’s senior population.

North Valley Hospital. - Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

North Valley spokesperson Catherine Todd said the hospital foundation has begun the “Building for Generations” capital campaign in earnest. It originally started as a way to fund much-needed expansions to the birth center and maternity ward, Todd said, but the hospital realized there is much more potential for growth and upgrades.

Money raised in the campaign will go toward buying buildings, equipment, land and all the facets necessary for successful expansion, she said.
“It really has expanded to something much broader,” Todd said.

The hospital’s outreach clinics, such as the North Valley Professional Center and Physical Therapy Clinic in Columbia Falls and the North Country Medical Clinic in Eureka, are due for upgrades as well, she said.

The Columbia Falls clinic’s services include primary care, pediatrics and some obstetrics, and Todd said patient levels have increased significantly.

“We’ve outgrown our space in Columbia Falls,” Todd said. “We’re super busy out there.”

At the main Whitefish campus, North Valley has started a new geriatric program looking to perform comprehensive health assessments for the valley’s older population, including overall physical health, diet, pharmacy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and mental health needs.

The geriatric specialty services, spearheaded by Dr. Linda Hitchcock and her husband Fred Hitchcock, will focus on developing comprehensive care plans for older adults, including working with the patient’s primary care physician and the patient’s family.

Embrace Health, North Valley’s outpatient mental health center for adults 55 and older, will also play a major role in the new geriatric program, Todd said.

“There’s such a big need,” Todd said of mental health services. “One way we can contribute is helping our seniors.”

For more information on the North Valley Geriatric Services, visit www.nvgeriatrics.org. For more information on the Newman Center, call Pathways at 406-756-3950. And for more information on the Westshore Medical Clinic, visit www.kalispellregional.org/nwhc/medical-practices/westshore-medical-clinic.
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