After years of providing alcohol and narcotic addiction services, Hi-Line Recovery has been dropped by Hill County, as well as the other counties represented on the Hi-Line Recovery board of directors, as their official treatment provider.
While the counties begin receiving their services from Gateway Community Services of Great falls, the staff of Havre’s Hi-Line Recovery will continue offering their allowed services under their new name Unity Road Recovery, in the same offices they have been using.
“We are very excited about our new venture and look forward to sharing our energy and ideas with our community, ” the three heads of this new entity — Darlina Howard, Pati Killibrew Hall and Debby Knudson Di’Piero — said in a letter to Hi-Line Recovery clients sent out recently.
Aside from their excitement about the new organization, the three said Tuesday that they were concerned about the change and its effect on the community.
One of their main concerns is that, in being a county’s designated treatment program, they were allowed to offer state-backed payment agreements and sliding scale fee pricing and received revenue from the county for alcohol and tobacco taxes, revenue that will now be sent away to Great Falls.
“We are a community-based service, ” Di’Piero said. “We have been doing this for years. Most of us were born and raised here. My concern is with taking our tax dollars and shipping it off to Great Falls and taking it away from the people here that have been offering the services. That’s wrong. ”
Hall said that, during her career as a counselor, she has seen a trend like this, where counties outsource their treatment services to one company that may be quite some distance away, and she fears its impact on the communities that do so.
“It allows one company to go around blocking other companies, ” Hall said. “If the community supports us, and they are quality services, we should have a chance for the tax dollars.
“We believe the community really has a right to choose what treatment center they want to go to. With the state’s approval process now, we can’t do that. ”
While Hill County Commissioner Kathy Bessette, who represented Hill County on the board, was not reachable by deadline, fellow Commissioner Mike Wendland said that the decision was purely financial.
“It was an economics thing, ” Wendland said. “The current structure was in the hole, running in the red, and they had to do something to turn that around. That’s why they switched the management. ”
According to Howard, the debt that Hi-Line Recovery had faced in the past few years was the result of a few clerical errors, happening on two occasions.
Twice in the past five years, when the organization was experience high management turnaround with new directors every year, newly incoming management had discovered that services were being logged incorrectly into the state reimbursement system.
Each of those misreporting incidents set the center back between $30,000 and $40,000, Howard said. The counselors are still working to repay that debt.
The three were also concerned about how long Gateway would take to become operational in Hill County and what services they will even offer when they get here.
Unity Road Recovery will be offering all of the services they always have — including outpatient treatment and evaluations — except the Montana Department of Health and Human Services ACT, or Assessment Course Treatment, classes, which can only be offered by a county’s designated counciling service.
Collette Stinar, development coordinator for Gateway Community Services, said the program's Executive Director Tom Perdew would be visiting commissioners and judges in Havre tomorrow and would have a better idea what sort of time table they'll be looking at after those meetings.
Wendland said that “it might take some time” to get them set up and ready to take over.