Billings Clinic announced Thursday that its Cancer Center has been granted $2.2 million in federal stimulus funding to support more than a dozen programs.
At an afternoon press conference, hospital officials said the money will be used to increase the focus on 14 programs in clinical trials, health care disparities outreach, survivorship and palliative care, multidisciplinary care and electronic health records.
“We have a great need and we were competitive and they saw that we were worthy,” said Jim Duncan, president of the Billings Clinic Foundation.
The money comes from $80 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act given to the National Cancer Institute, which is being distributed among the 16 members, including Billings Clinic, of the NCI Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP). It will also be used to add 14 new NCCCP sites.
Dr. Thomas Purcell, director of the Billings Clinic Cancer Center, said that, among other things, the money will help the clinic to better “interface with other (NCCCP) facilities” by improving connections and information sharing through technology
The goal, he said, is to ensure the cancer center provides comprehensive care for patients.
“It’s kind of adding to what we’re doing,” Purcell said. “We have so many different things that come together.”
Melissa Spotted Bear, outreach coordinator for NCCCP at Billings Clinic, said the money will also be used to help increase outreach services around the region through community education and more services. The cancer center sends outreach teams to communities around the eastern part of the state — and as far as Williston, N.D. — as well as to Native American communities in Montana and Wyoming.
She said there are many underserved and uninsured people that need cancer treatment, especially in tribal communities, that will benefit from the money.
“We’ll be able to do more outreach, collaborate and network, within those communities,” Spotted Bear said.
Duncan said such grants help the cancer center towards its goal of being a destination center by providing what he called an “integrated team approach,” where numerous services, doctors and specialists are provided under one roof instead of shipping patients around to different places.
With about half of Billings Clinic’s admissions coming from outside Yellowstone County, providing better services both locally and in the region is always on the minds of hospital officials.
“We are competing at a national level for these dollars and our program is performing at national levels,” Duncan said. “This confirms the competitive nature of how Billings Clinic is approaching it. As we continue to add experts and treat additional cancers, you start to see the footprint of the service area grow.”