Philanthropy and collaboration support community health

| August 19, 2020 1:00 AM

Whitefish and surrounding communities are fortunate to have superb healthcare facilities and services nearby — including a hospital established in 1905; many local and regional clinics; well-trained physicians, front line and administrative healthcare workers; emergency medical staff; and countless others who contribute to the health of our community.

At the North Valley Hospital Foundation, one of our guiding principles is to work to fund initiatives through NVH that are identified in the Flathead County Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). The CHNA is updated once every three years in an extensive process that involves hundreds of organizations and individuals which identifies the highest priority gaps or health challenges in our community.

Based on that assessment, the NVH Foundation in partnership with the NVH community relations department have put an emphasis on mental health and suicide prevention as well as healthy eating and reducing obesity. These are areas that the board felt we could make a difference. The strategy was to partner with already existing highly regarded nonprofits that were focused on similar efforts.

Last year, joint efforts to fundraise with the Nate Chute Foundation (NCF) were very successful. The NCF’s work to reduce suicide in Flathead County through education, awareness building, prevention, intervention and post-vention are worthy of support. With Montana in the top five states for suicide rates over the past few decades, it is a continued crisis that deserves focus. Because of many who have given financial support to this effort, NVH is able to work with the NCF in providing funding for additional staff to expand and sustain their work in the coming years. The NV Behavioral Health clinic was also able to add a new service for treating severe depression in adults called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) that has already helped many of those who were crippled with this mental health challenge.

Similarly, to help promote healthy eating and fight obesity, joint fundraising and programmatic efforts were pursued with Farm Hands – Nourish the Flathead. The Planetree Healing Garden at NVH, along with a Food Rx program at the NV Professional Center clinic in Columbia Falls have benefited from this work. The garden provides a source of healthy vegetables and fruits and is a site and inspiration for educational efforts related to farm to table concepts. The Food Rx program engages over longer periods of time with families that are food insecure and need assistance and support related to access to healthy food, how to prepare fresh food, and what it means to the health of their families. NVH has also worked to help Farm Hands fund and sustain the backpack assistance program for school children in the Columbia Falls school system.

These are just a few ways in which NVH is working at our mission to be the center of healing for the community. The philanthropic support from many generous citizens has helped hundreds, if not thousands of people through these efforts. And a reminder ... give to one of 56 charities participating in the Great Fish Challenge at whitefishcommunityfoundation.org.

Alan Satterlee is the Executive Director of the North Valley Hospital Foundation.