Eric Whitney

News Director

Eric is the news director for Montana Public Radio.

Ways To Connect

The Federal Aviation Administration today approved expansion of the Powder River Training Complex, a huge new airspace for military bombers to practice. It covers portions of Montana, Wyoming and North and South Dakota.

Montana’s congressional delegation fought the expansion, saying it will disrupt agriculture and interfere with operations at rural airports.

http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2195006

A new study says that the youth suicide rate in rural America is growing, compared to the number of youth suicides in cities.

Ryan White wrote about the study for the website Reporting on Health.  He is a contributing editor at the website. White talked to MTPR News Director Eric Whitney about a new study in JAMA Pediatrics that shows youth suicide rates are twice as high in rural counties as in cities.

 

Hacking Rural Medicine

Most of Montana’s hospitals are small and rural. And these are hard times for small town hospitals. The National Rural Health Association says about 300 rural hospitals are in danger of having to close in the next few years.

Monica Bourgeau is an executive with a federally funded project to help Montana hospitals adapt to the rapid changes in healthcare and survive.

"Rural healthcare is really facing a lot of kind of new and unique challenges right now."

Flathead National Forest

The Flathead National Forest is revising its forest plan for the first time since 1986. The plan lays out what is and isn’t possible on 2.4 million acres of federal land from Seeley Lake to the Canadian border.

Eric Whitney

About 80 climate change activists rallied in Missoula this morning.

Led by Jeff Smith of the group 350Missoula, they gathered in front of Senator Steve Daines’ office here. There were there to, they said, “protest the senator’s denial of climate change science and his support for fossil fuel projects like coal exports, the Otter Creek Coal Mine, and the Keystone XL pipeline."

Eric Whitney

A couple of programs for senior citizens and children in Montana are facing a volunteer shortage. That could mean reduced federal funding if target numbers aren’t met.

"As of a couple of days ago we were about a dozen short," said Megan Grotzke with Rocky Mountain Development Council in Helena. "There’s a greater need for at this point for foster grandparent volunteers."

Josh Burnham

Spring enrollment at the University of Montana is down 4.7 percent over last year. And enrollment at Missoula College is down 10.9 percent versus last year.

UM officials said the downturn was expected, and the current number meets the University’s enrollment and budget projections for this fiscal year.

The current student headcount at the University is 12,992.

UM President Royce Engstrom said the “enrollment picture remains challenging as several smaller classes continue to move through our system.

Eric Whitney

Governor Bullock's bill to expand Medicaid gets its first hearing in the state legislature on Friday. Watching closely will be Montana's hospitals.

To understand why, drop by an emergency room at one of Montana's bigger hospitals, like Benefis in Great Falls.

This ER serves about a quarter of the state's population. And 10 to 12 percent of Benefis' patients can't afford to pay their bills. Last year, that added up to $36 million in unpaid bills, or about three times the hospital's profit margin.

Nathan Kosted

Governor Steve Bullock’s Medicaid expansion plan gets its first hearing at the state legislature Friday, and that has groups for and against it trying to rally support.

The Koch brothers-funded group Americans For Prosperity, or AFP, unveiled new broadcast ads targeting Montana Republican representatives.

Josh Burnham

Attorney General Tim Fox says he needs more time to analyze how $65 million from the sale of Missoula’s Community Medical Center should be used.

Fox approved the sale itself January 12. Still pending is Community’s proposal for where money from the sale should go.

"Because the proposal was submitted rather late in the process, we felt we did not have sufficient time to review that," said John Barnes, spokesman for the attorney general.

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