August, 19 2017

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Montana Opens 1st of 7 Residential Treatment Centers for Meth Addiction

The first of seven state-funded residential treatment centers for people addicted to methamphetamine and other substances has opened in Billings.

White Birch Center, operated by Rimrock Foundation at 929 N. 19th St., quickly filled its eight beds after accepting its first client Jan. 3, officials said.

It provides voluntary intensive addictions counseling to low-income men, many of whom are referred there by a court, said Joan Cassidy, chief of the state Chemical Dependency Bureau in Helena.

The 2007 Legislature approved $4 million from the state general fund to expand by 56 beds the state's capacity to treat people with addictions.

The beds will be spread evenly across sites in seven Montana cities: Billings, Bozeman, Miles City, Rocky Boy, Great Falls, Boulder and Kalispell.

Officials hope all of the sites will be operational by the end of February. The Billings site was the first to open.

Since 1995, the state has operated a single residential treatment program, Montana Chemical Dependency Center in Butte, where a two- to three-month waiting list is common.

"This has been very exciting for us to come together" to provide more treatment options, Cassidy said.

A Helena company, Boyd Andrew Community Services, won the state contract to manage the multicity effort, officially called the Resident Treatment Expansion Consortium.

Boyd Andrew subcontracted with providers in six cities, including Rimrock Foundation in Billings.

Rimrock Foundation operates a handful of treatment centers and group homes around Billings.

The state will pay the organization $208 per resident per day at White Birch Center, Cassidy said. The average length of stay is expected to be 45 days, after which residents will move into "sober housing" for a time before making the transition back to a community setting.

Clients at White Birch will be men with "hard-core" addictions, said Boyd Andrew chief executive officer Mike Ruppert.

Men with criminal records can be accepted into the center, Ruppert said.

It is not uncommon for people with serious addictions to have criminal histories, said Mona Sumner, Rimrock's chief operations officer.

The men at the center will not pose a threat to the neighborhood, Sumner said. "These are people with a disease who are motivated," she said. "They are there because they want help. I don't think that makes them bad people. I think it makes them sick people who want to get well."

Sumner acknowledged that some neighbors to White Birch are unhappy with the center.

Rimrock Foundation has butted heads with neighbors to several of its treatment facilities across the city. In one instance, the outcry was so intense the organization decided to relocate a planned group home for teens. Another conflict led to a lawsuit between Rimrock Foundation and the city that remains in litigation.

"The fact that it upsets people is mostly irrational," Sumner said. "Nothing has ever happened (at any of our facilities) and nothing is going to happen here, either."

Because of complaints about White Birch, including one about the property's landscaping, Rimrock Foundation asked the state to handle publicity for the new center.

The media were not invited to an open house at the center earlier this week, but officials were not trying to keep the project secret, Sumner said. "We're not hiding anything," she said.

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