YBGR opens renovated medical clinic
June 22, 2018
- By SUSAN OLP
In 1957, around the time the Yellowstone Boys Ranch opened west of Billings, Dr. Don Harr, a psychiatrist new to the area, was tapped as a consultant.
He worked with the cottage couples who helped oversee the care of the boys on campus. He primarily focused on helping discern the underlying reasons for the youngsters’ behavior problems.
“So they could approach it in a more therapeutic way than just hard-nosed discipline,” Harr said Thursday afternoon.
It was only one small part of his medical practice in Billings. Now long retired, Harr, 94, returned to what’s now the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch for the grand re-opening of the nonprofit’s Tom & Joan Scott Medical Clinic.
Employees and supporters gathered for a barbecue and tours of the renovated clinic. Several foundations contributed about $180,000 to upgrade the clinic, said YBGR CEO Mike Chavers, in a few remarks to the group.
“It’s our 61st year here at Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch,” he said. “It’s about making a difference in kids’ lives across Montana.”
YBGR works with about 700 children and youth a day in community based and residential treatment services, he said. About 73 live on campus and another 60 are bused in daily for school and treatment services.
Beyond that, community based services are offered in Billings, Lewistown, Livingston and Dillon.
In an interview, Chavers said YBGR started planning about a year ago to upgrade its medical clinic, which was located on the main campus west of 72nd Street West. At the time the red-brick building east of 72nd was not in use, and it made sense to remodel it and locate the medical services there.
“We knew that we needed an updated clinic space in order to provide better services for our kids,” Chavers said. “The types of kids we’re getting are changing and we needed more nursing services.”
Despite the fact that kids who come to YBGR now stay shorter periods, they’re coming with more complex medical or psychological issues than they have in the past.
“So we knew we had to support our medical staff, our psychiatric staff and nursing staff and give them the space they needed to provide good treatment, and this project allowed us to do that,” he said.
Remodeling on the one-story clinic began in April, with the work done by Henderson Construction of Billings. Individual sick rooms were added for kids who aren’t feeling well.
The nursing station was enlarged and private offices were added. Technology was upgraded because of the need for tele-psychiatry and tele-conferencing.
“Sometimes our families can’t come and visit and we like them to be able to see their child,” Chavers said.
Video teleconferencing is available across campus, but the clinic offers a more private setting, and there’s also a conference room for transmitting staff conferences that may involve the family.
The staff includes a part-time medical director, a full-time physician assistant, a full-time psychiatrist who works remotely from Dallas, a director of nursing, a dozen nurses and some part-time contract nurses.
That’s much different from what Harr was used to when he first started consulting at the newly opened ranch. The campus, with only a few buildings, sat west of 72nd Street West.
“Some of the buildings were left over from the ranch that had been here previously,” he said. “So I had the opportunity to witness many additions and changes.”
He stopped his consulting work after several years, but returned occasionally to fill in on a temporary basis when YBGR was short of medical help.
“I think it’s marvelous what’s been done and what they’re continuing to do,” Harr said.
Comparing the facilities to what was previously available, he is impressed. The clinic is laid out well and provides staff room to work one-on-one with the youth.
“It’s almost beyond comparison to what it was on the other side of the road,” he said.