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Helmsley Charitable Trust Grants $12M to Enhance Trauma and Complex Care at Billings Clinic

Funding will expand ECMO services, establish Montana’s first surgical intensive care unit, and create a state-of-the-art transfer center.

BILLINGS, April 25, 2024 — In states like Montana and Wyoming, where the distance between hospitals in rural communities and trauma centers can stretch hundreds of miles, the ability to deliver and coordinate complex care as quickly and effectively as possible closer to home can make all the difference. The critical time it takes to get a sick or injured person to definitive care is referred to as the “golden hour.” Montana has the second-worst survival ranking in the nation for trauma, due in part to these great distances.

Billings Clinic announced today that it has been awarded $10 million in grants and a $2 million challenge grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to greatly enhance trauma and complex care in this region.

“To best serve patients, hospitals like Billings Clinic have to keep up with the ever-changing needs and demands of their patients and these grants help them do that with new technology, training and resources,” said Walter Panzirer, a Trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “Helmsley is proud to partner with innovative organizations like Billings Clinic to support efforts that increase the level of care people have access to no matter where they call home.”

The funding will expand Billings Clinic’s lifesaving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) program. ECMO is life support technology that provides cardiac and respiratory support for critically ill patients whose heart and lungs can’t perform their normal functions. It requires extensive training and resources. Billings Clinic is the first ECMO provider in Montana, Wyoming and the western Dakotas, and most ECMO patients come from outside of the Billings services, which will provide equipment and a team of highly skilled and extensively trained health care professionals to transport patients from rural facilities while using ECMO enroute.

A grant will also help Billings Clinic build Montana’s first dedicated Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU). In 2023, Billings Clinic was verified as the first Level I Trauma Center and only Comprehensive Stroke Center in the states of Montana and Wyoming. Combined with a 10% annual increase in Emergency Department visits, the number of patients for trauma, neurosurgery and complex medical care is rising, creating the need for expanded intensive care space. The SICU will provide dedicated surgical intensive care for critically ill patients with the aid of bedside intensivist care and specialized equipment for post-surgical patients. The new SICU will be constructed on the fourth level of the trauma tower, closely connected to the Medical ICU, Emergency Department, Cardiovascular Unit and surgical suites. Construction is expected to begin this year.

Additionally, a grant will help to create a new state-of-the-art regional transfer center at Billings Clinic. When it comes to serving an expansive rural geography, coordinating efficient and effective transfer of patients to the appropriate site of care for patient needs is critically important. This new transfer center will support rural hospitals in their ability to serve patients locally and facilitate efficient patient transfer when a higher level of care is needed. This coordinated service will also facilitate returning patients to their home communities when they are ready for hospital discharge.

“The Helmsley Charitable Trust has made transformational gifts over many years to help Billings Clinic innovate and elevate health care for the vast region we serve,” Billings Clinic Foundation President Jim Duncan said. “Today’s announcement of the generous $12 million in grants from Helmsley is one of the largest in Billings Clinic Foundation history, and it will help us continue transforming the way we coordinate and care for patients with complex and critical care needs. We are profoundly grateful to the trustees and staff of the Helmsley Charitable Trust for their continued investment in a shared vision of keeping care local whenever possible.”

In 2022, Billings Clinic announced it was pursuing Montana’s first Level I Trauma Center designation. In conjunction with that announcement, Billings Clinic Foundation launched a $30 million capital campaign in support of the effort. The campaign goal was increased to $32 million when plans to expand ECMO services were added. The Foundation has raised over $28 million to date. To help finish the campaign, the Helmsley Charitable Trust is also giving a matching grant, so that donors’ gifts will be matched dollar for dollar up to $2 million. Once it is fulfilled, the challenge grant will complete the campaign.

Through its Rural Healthcare Program, the Helmsley Charitable Trust works to improve access to and quality of care throughout eight rural states. To date it has awarded more than $700 million to health care efforts, including $115 million in Montana. Working closely with organizations such as Billings Clinic, the program invests in projects that improve health care delivery and strengthen the health care workforce. Previous support from Helmsley to Billings Clinic includes grants to establish Montana’s first and only Internal Medicine and Psychiatry residency programs.

“The commitment from the Helmsley Charitable Trust to serving rural states makes meaningful change in our communities, and we are grateful for their ongoing support,” said Clint Seger, MD, Billings Clinic CEO. “Thanks to their support, we can advance innovative and lifesaving care for people from Montana and Wyoming.”

To support Billings Clinic’s Level I Trauma campaign and help enhance complex care in the region, visit www.billingsclinic.com/foundation. For more information on trauma services at Billings Clinic, visit www.billingsclinic.com/trauma.




About The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $4.5 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. Helmsley’s Rural Healthcare Program funds innovative projects that use information technologies to connect rural patients to emergency medical care, bring the latest medical therapies to patients in remote areas, and provide state-of-the-art training for rural hospitals and EMS personnel. To date, this program has awarded more than $700 million to organizations and initiatives in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. For more information, visit www.helmsleytrust.org.



Dirk Lammers, (605) 254-3472, dirk@ceteraservices.com