By BLAIR EMERSON Bismarck Tribune, July 13, 2017
From left, Stephanie Isaak, Stephanie Munro, Martina Dia and Tonia Rides Horse. United Tribes News photos DENNIS J. NEUMANN
Stephanie Munro took a huge leap when she decided to leave the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana and enroll at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck.
She had many questions about how this could work for her, a 41-year-old mother returning to school. One of her biggest hang-ups was how she could live on campus and receive insulin medication for her diabetes and other counseling services she received back home at an Indian Health Service facility.
"I just thought, I'm in Browning (Mont.), I have all the resources here," she said. "Just one of my medications is $591, and that's a two-week supply. That's why (I wondered), could I even stay here? Could I even go to school?"
To ensure out-of-state students on Medicaid receive medical assistance, United Tribes recently became a certified third-party biller, so rather than having students go to the nearest IHS facility in Fort Yates for medical care, UTTC can provide it right there on campus and get reimbursed.
United Tribes offers basic care, addiction services, social work services, counseling and domestic violence advocates to students and their families. The problem was the tribal college couldn't get paid for these services they provide, as they weren't approved as a Medicaid facility, according to Stephanie Isaak, director of the college's Wellness Center.
So, Isaak hired Martina Dia, a third-party billing specialist who previously work at the Blackfeet Community Hospital, an IHS facility, as a Medicaid enrollment provider. Dia understood the process about how to get the college enrolled as a third-party biller and immediately went to work getting all eight providers on staff certified.
Isaak said before third-party billing, funding for services provided on campus came out of the college's IHS contract for medical care, which is about $100,000 a year.
"We would have money to provide services, but once it's gone, it's gone," said Isaak, adding that reimbursement through third-party billing is key, so services can be provided to another student.
"We're very excited, as a department," Dia said. "We're more excited that we can provide that service to our students, that's our main goal."
The option to receive services on campus has put Tonia Rides Horse at ease, knowing she can easily get help for her and her kids on campus. Rides Horse, originally from Montana, relocated with her five kids to Bismarck in 2015. She's studying elementary education, and one of the things she liked about the college was the domestic violence services it offers.
"We can utilize the counseling for mental health, especially being domestic violence survivors, there's pretty much constant triggers wherever you turn," said Rides Horse, who visits a domestic violence advocate on campus. "With the facility here, we can walk three minutes, five minutes from our house because we live on campus."
(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)