RHI’s Rural Health Success Story Contest Winner: Missoula County’s Rural Clinic in Seeley, MT

Nutrition Program Offers Rural Clinic

Among the approximately 111,000 residents of Missoula County, many live in rural areas and towns outside of Missoula. Seeley Lake is one of these towns and has about 1,700 residents. While Seeley Lake is thought of by many, including full-time residents, as a tourist town, some families simply describe it as their home-the place they grew up. The mountains, the quiet and small-town feel are what people living there enjoy. At times though, these benefits can be a barrier to services that are only available in larger cities. The 55 miles between Missoula and Seeley Lake may not seem far during summer months, but long winters can make a drive to Missoula for an appointment difficult, and transportation is not always available.
The Missoula County Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC) has been holding an outlying clinic in Seeley Lake for over 25 years. This outlying clinic, and others like it, makes nutrition education, supplemental foods, growth monitoring, and health referrals  more accessible for families living outside Missoula who fall below 185% of US Poverty Income Guidelines.
Faith Chapel Church in Seeley Lake has housed the clinic for all the 25 years by opening its doors, and lighting the wood stove. This partnership has been instrumental in serving WIC families. For eligible participants, routine anthropometric measurements are performed, nutritional counseling and breast feeding support is offered, and health care referrals are made within the comfort of the building. A public health nurse also travels with WIC staff, and provides various other supportive services for families. The location of the clinic is accessible, warm and welcoming. Church toys are available for children to play with while parents visit with WIC staff. Participants leave with current nutrition information that fits their needs, and checks to be used at grocery stores that help them feed their families nutritious foods.
Nutrition is critical during pregnancy and preschool years, but so is social health.  Feelings of isolation can coincide with the benefits of living in a rural community. A few years ago, a young mom who had just moved to Seeley Lake came to the WIC clinic. She had expressed feeling overwhelmed with not knowing anyone and having two small children. During her WIC visit, she met another mom that was born and raised in Seeley Lake. They instantly started talking, and found out their children were about the same age. The long-time resident invited the new resident to a local toddler play group at the school and extended a hand of friendship. Although WIC has outlying clinics statewide, this particular rural clinic is impacting this community and some of its youngest residents by providing a sense of community, good nutrition, and support that will hopefully lay the foundation for a healthy future.

Questions? Please contact Debbie Hirshberg, the Outlying Clinic Coordinator for Missoula WIC,  for more information.

P: 406-240-3849   E: DHirshberg@mt.gov