Vol. 4 | Fall 2019

once enough? Isn’t there some other way I could learn these lessons? I remember wishing I had something soothing to help me pass the time while I was waiting, something to get me out of my own head, a place to direct all of that nervous energy.” A few years earlier, Chris Riccardo, Director of Helena’s Holter Museum of Arts had a similar experience as a caregiver to his father. “I just remember looking around the waiting room at all the restless people and thinking to myself, Man, I wish I had some art supplies right now and we could all just work on some kind of project.” The magazines and newspapers he saw either reinforced feelings of fear and hopelessness or seemed totally petty and irrelevant. That idea never left Chris and, when Nicole approached him to talk about a Healing Arts program in the Helena community, it seemed like fate. The timing was right; they felt confident in the value of the program and began preparing proposals and gaining support. Because this seemed like a radical idea for a traditional hospital setting, Nicole, Chris and the Holter’s staff members gathered research, building a convincing case for the program’s value. The program would be four-fold: a Holter Mini-Museum, Maker Stations, the Holter Art Cart, and a Mobile Museum onsite. They scheduled a meeting with the Director of The Cancer Treatment Center and the Executive Vice President of the St. Peter's Health Foundation. They finalized preparations and were ready to debate and negotiate. “We stepped into that meeting feeling pretty uncertain about what the outcome would be,” Chris remembers. “Within the first 10 minutes, they were all in. It was such a good feeling.” “That meeting really gave us a huge confidence boost and we were so pleased that St. Pete’s saw the value and potential in this dream. We came out of that meeting glowing with renewed faith and eager to get things going,” Nicole recalls. Once they had been given the green light, they decided to apply for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana’s (BCBSMT) Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® $50,000 grant. BCBSMT invests in like-minded, non-profit organizations offering sustainable, measurable programs for children and their families in five areas: nutrition, physical activity,

disease prevention and management, substance abuse prevention and suicide prevention. The $50,000 HKHF grant is one of four BCBSMT awards annually. “We poured so much heart, soul, time and energy into that grant proposal,” Nicole remembers. “We had a lot of hope when we finally submitted. Then, a few months went by and I sort of had to let it go. I had this time frame in my head of when we would hear back about the grant and that time came and went. So, when I got the call from Chris that we had gotten it, I was totally in shock. I just burst into tears. It has been such a tremendous blessing and something I am truly, truly grateful for.” Nicole and Chris talk about receiving the grant from BCBSMT with gratitude and relief. Nicole explains that it “really gave us the breathing room we needed in order to slow down and develop the program thoughtfully with future expansion in mind.” Timing was crucial in this story. The wisdom, empathy and grace Nicole gained from her medical crises fueled her passion to create this dream while, simultaneously, the Holter was re-examining its role in the Helena community. “We wanted to give back in really intentional ways that would impact people’s lives in a personal, practical way,” says Chris. “We needed to earn back the trust of our community.” Similarly, St. Peter’s Health (formerly St. Peter’s Hospital) was undergoing their own rebranding process and looking at ways they could improve patient experience and offer a broader spectrum of care. The final piece? BCBSMT directing immense attention, resources, and policies toward more holistic, preventative care versus the traditional model of treating major illnesses and injuries requiring major medical intervention and treatment. Their support and funding of the Holter Healing Arts program is a beautiful illustration of their Value- Based Care model. Fear and stress make healing hard. Creative expression can relieve some of that. “We’re not looking to create masterpieces here,” Nicole says, “We’re looking to soothe and neutralize the trauma and stress that’s very active in the mind-body experience by giving them both something to do.” According to feedback the program has received, it’s working. By adding beauty and color to a scary, often black and white experience, the heroes of our town are creating a masterpiece. n

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