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Glacier County will still respond to 911 and emergency calls

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Glacier County officials claim the Indian Health Service (IHS) owes the county $1.8 million in reimbursements dating back to 2014 and have hired two independent contractors and a Virginia-based consulting firm to assist in obtaining the funds. Monday, Dec. 16, the Commissioners unanimously voted to “suspend all requests for service from the IHS Blackfeet Service Unit in Browning until there is a resolution of the outstanding debt owed to Glacier County by IHS.” The Commissioners’ action was effective immediately.

The Commissioners and Glacier County EMS officials stressed they will continue to respond to emergency and 911 calls, but will not respond to requests for service from IHS officials. 

“The county will continue to respond to 911 calls and will continue to transport patients to the nearest medical facility,” stressed Commission Chairman Michael DesRosier. “However, Glacier County Emergency Medical Services will not transport patients from the Browning IHS hospital to other facilities, such as Great Falls and Kalispell.”

Officials with IHS dispute the County’s claim it is owed nearly $2 million in back payments.

“Despite repeated requests for documentation, IHS has not been able to substantiate the amount claimed by Glacier County,” responded Jennifer Buschick, MPA, Director, Public Affairs, for IHS. 

According to a written statement from Buschick, “At this time, IHS does not believe the $1.8 million amount is accurate. For the past nine months, IHS has been working closely with the county to identify any outstanding claims that are eligible for payment.”

Glacier County EMS Director Tauna Evans and Commissioner Tom McKay refuted IHS’s statement they have not received the documentation. Evans said IHS “has received information from the County in prior years–just not this year–for the claims they are working on.”

McKay added, “We have provided enough information to IHS we feel confident enough to take them to court.”

DesRosier concurred, stating the issue will “probably have to be resolved by a judge.” 

Glacier County officials earlier this month issued a press release saying they were suspending EMS service to IHS. The press release was released prior to the Commissioners actually voting on the matter during an official meeting.

Glacier County Commissioner and Chairman Michael DesRosier, County Attorney Terryl Matt, CFO Chancy Kittson and EMS Director Tauna Evans were at the Browning Satellite Office when the Dec. 5 conference call with IHS officials was held. Human Resources Director Mike Kittson sat in on the call from the Glacier County Courthouse in Cut Bank. Tom Rodgers of Carlyle Consulting (based in Virginia) was also in on the call.

Following the Dec. 5 call, a press release quoting Commissioner DesRosier was released by Ken Bazinet of Collective Consulting in Rockville, Maryland. Bazinet said his firm works with Carlyle Consulting. 

The press release stated Glacier County Commissioners were suspending ambulance service “to the only Native American hospital in the area” due to IHS’s failure to reimburse Glacier County.

Action on the suspension of services to IHS was put on the Commissioners’ Dec. 16 agenda after the Dec. 5 conference call with IHS.

Glacier County continues to pay independent contractor Rita Newman to assist with the past due reimbursements from IHS. Glacier County also had a contract with independent contractor Carla King who spent some of her time working on third-party billing for Glacier County EMS.

The Commissioners earlier approved spending up to $25,000 for Carlyle Consulting to provide Matt with “professional consultant litigation services” and another contract for up to $25,000 with the firm for “consulting services” for the County Commissioners.

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