Who We Are
The Benewah Medical & Wellness Center (BMWC) is located in Benewah County in the Panhandle of Idaho on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation. This county has the highest number of minorities of any county in the State of Idaho. Poverty, unemployment, and geographic isolation initially characterized the service area. Almost a third of our users are below 200% of t he Federal poverty guidelines. Clinic users are about 50% Indian and 50% non-Indian. Approximately 40% of our patients have no insurance. Benewah County also typically has the highest unemployment rate in Idaho, and over double the national unemployment rate. Eleven percent of BMC patients are 65 or older. There has been significant economic improvement to the service area in the last 5 years, although conditions continue to exist that warrant continued access for the underserved population. Many in the community continue to be underinsured or have no insurance at all.
In 1990, the Health Board Authority and Tribal Council decided its new clinic would serve all persons in the community regardless of their ability to pay. In 1994 BMC was finally able to provide services to the medically underserved and indigent population. Funding from the Bureau of Primary Health Care allowed the Tribe to establish the clinic as a Community Health Center. A sliding fee scale now could be offered to the non-Indians in the local region.
The Benewah Medical Center opened in 1990 with 14 staff and 800 patients. It now employs approximately 170 with an annual budget in excess of 16 million. Currently approximately 6,000 patients account for 30,000 medical, dental and counseling visits each year . BMWC has experienced a consistent growth pattern of both patient registration and service use during the entire history of the organization. For example, BMC has averaged between 50 and 100 new patients each month for several years. This growth has been considerably larger than initial projections. Early on, this unprecedented growth required planning a renovation and expansion to the new facility after only 12 months of operation, and once again we are beginning preparations for a new expansion.
The organization allows for the maximum flexibility of patient care activities while still promoting coordination of services. Community Health staff interact with clients in the home or school settings linking them with appropriate medical, mental health, nutrition, rehabilitation, and wellness programs. Standing meetings are scheduled with cross-functional teams to assist in delivering effective and coordinated quality care, reducing the amount of time away from delivery of direct patient care. Nearly all directors and managers are themselves clinicians, thereby keeping in touch with grass-roots perspectives on care so critical to the organization's success.
BMWC has also been creative in addressing the multi-cultural considerations of its diverse communities. Clinic and Wellness Center employees are trained to know about Native Indian history, customs, and specifically about the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. It is the practice within the Benewah Medical & Wellness Center to create specific opportunities during staff meetings to learn about cultural beliefs and values and how they may relate to illness. This organization recognizes the importance of Native Indian belief systems and ceremonies and accommodates attendance at Tribal gatherings when appropriate.
BMWC policy promotes coordination of clinical staff and Native Indian healers. On occasion, contract health funds are utilized to pay travel to a neighboring state to access a medicine woman or man. A committee reviews this type of consultation in the same positive way that a referral is made to a western medical or mental health provider.
Patient satisfaction surveys consistently show a satisfaction rate above 90% for all programs and services. Patients’ use of our clinical services has dramatically increased by over 1000% since inception. Employee teams strive to perpetuate regional support by constantly evaluating in-house services to ensure patient-responsive care and by providing community-based services, i.e. school-linked health care, wellness fairs, satellite flu clinics, home visits to the chronically ill, transportation for the elderly, nutrition education, and a focus on diabetes and asthma. Formal quality improvement processes promote reviews of service effectiveness and quality care delivery. BMWC has achieved AAAHC accreditation since 1997.