Two health agencies form OneHealth


For Custer County residents, finding quality health care just got a whole lot easier.

County Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the proposed integration of Custer County Community Health Center and the Custer County Public Health Department, now known as OneHealth. 

It was the result of an 18-month-long process. The two organizations felt the time was now to integrate clinical service delivery with community prevention in order to improve individual outcomes and overall community health. Recently the public health department moved into the Veterans Affairs facility where CCCHS is based, so they already share a location.

“It’s a very exciting time for us,” said newly appointed OneHealth CEO Kent Doughty. “It will really streamline things and make the experience less daunting. Now they can get all the services both organizations provide in one place with one set of paperwork.”

Doughty had been head of the CCCHC.

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the mandates attached to it, the organizations believe it to be increasingly important to work together. Integrated service delivery models are a national movement as a way to increase quality of care, efficiency and accountability for the cost of that care. 

“Our two organizations are similar in missions and visions, but unique enough that together we can accomplish many great things with healthcare in our community,” said director of CCPHD Wendy Richards. “Custer County Community Health Center is federally funded. Custer County Public Health is funded via local, state and federal dollars. Custer County Community Health has a focus of Primary Care with an increasing focus on prevention efforts. Custer County Public Health has many prevention programs.”

The idea of integrating the two organizations has been floating around the commissioners’ office for years, according to Doughty, but only started taking shape within the last two years.

“About 18 months ago, part of the public health initiative project was looking at collaboration with the community and how we could be more effective with the services we offer,” he said. “To reduce duplication and redundancy and waste, the initiative was born out of that. A year ago the heavy lifting started, getting the commissioners and the Community Health Board members involved, and getting the staff on board with the changes. For the staff especially, it’s been a long, thoughtful process, taking in the needs of the community and the people that we serve, and the needs of the employees as far as the transition.”

Doughty said all of the services currently offered by the two organizations will still be offered, while allowing for growth in other service areas.

“The mission of our organization is to serve the health care needs of eastern Montana,” he said. “We’re really looking at making changes and doing things differently to better serve the people who are consumers of health care.”