RiverStone Health plans to break ground on a new and larger clinic in August, addressing what employees have for years described as cramped and crowded conditions in its current clinic.

In its current facility, RiverStone has resorted to measures such as converting a bathroom into a meeting room and using a small space under a stairway as an employee work space to address the cramped conditions.

The new clinic is aimed at permanently addressing the county health agency's space concerns.

RiverStone will break ground on the new 25,000-square-foot clinic on Aug. 9 at 12:30 p.m. in a public ceremony.

Since a handful of public announcements beginning September 2015 unveiled major donations, the county health agency has been steadily working to finish out the fundraising in its $11 million capital campaign. Nearly $8 million has been raised to date.

"It's going to be an incredibly patient-friendly, staff- friendly, process-friendly facility," said John Felton, RiverStone president and CEO. "It's going to be incredibly efficient."

The new clinic, designed by CTA Architects, will be built just to the south of RiverStone's current clinic, at 123 S. 27th St.

After initial announcements of a $1 million federal grant and a $1 million donation from the Billings philanthropists Bill and Merilyn Ballard, the fundraising efforts received another boost Monday afternoon with the announcement of a $150,000 donation from First Interstate Bank and the First Interstate BancSystem Foundation.

With that donation, the capital campaign has raised $7.8 million of its $11 million goal. In late 2015, RiverStone officials were confident construction on the new clinic could start once they reached the $7 million mark.

"First Interstate Bank and First Interstate BancSystem Foundation have made strategic investments in the community for a number of years, and we are grateful for their generosity in contributing to our capital campaign," said Rob Hunter, Building a Health Community volunteer campaign chairman, in a prepared statement. "The financial support of First Interstate on this important public-private project is much appreciated."

Kristie Asay, executive director of the RiverStone Health Foundation, said that the total raised so far includes donations from RiverStone's board of directors.

In addition, 230 RiverStone employees have pledged a total of $388,000 of their own money to the project.

"I knew it would be generous," Asay said. "I was not surprised at all they were this generous."

As RiverStone has grown and expanded over the years, including by moving to a more comprehensive medical home model and adding medical teaching programs, it has outgrown the old building.

Today, it serves about 20,000 patients and processes 90,000 visits annually. When the clinic was built in 1995 the agency saw around 9,000 patients and 20,000 annual visits.

"This is being designed as a patient-centered medical home and to be a teaching facility," Felton said.

That will include adding 17 exam rooms for a total of 48. Those rooms will be divided into four "pods" of 12 rooms each and will be built around a central teaching area for resident physicians and others learning at RiverStone.

Throughout the design process — CTA Architects in Billings is in charge of the design, while Dick Anderson Construction will build the clinic — employees have been providing input and suggestions.

That includes focus groups, emailed ideas and tours of exam room mock-ups, gathering input on every aspect, from the layout of the entryway all the way down to the location of coat hangers.

"The people that will actually work in the building will have a huge influence on what the building looks like ... " Felton said. "When you engage people in a process like this, you're going to get the best they have to offer."

Both Felton and Asay also praised the effort as strong public-private partnership, with significant financial contributions from the government, businesses and private citizens, citing a recognition that it helps provide health care for some of Billings' most in-need patients and those who often wouldn't be able to afford it elsewhere.

The first phase of construction on the new clinic is expected to take about a year at a cost of around $8 million. A second phase, for about $3 million, will began after that to connect the new and old clinics. The old building will, among other things, be used to add supportive and therapy services.

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