Intermountain has a campus in Helena.
When there are no places in Montana, children can be sent out of the state at significantly higher costs and less likely to reunite with their families, said Mary Windecker, executive director of the Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana.
Between 2019 and 2020, 30% more children were sent to mental health homes outside of the state and 20% more to therapeutic group homes outside of Montana, according to Windecker.
As traumatic as the closure of a therapeutic children’s home is, it would be unthinkable for Bugni what would happen if AWARE could not look after group homes for people with developmental disabilities.
“We are their home for developmental disability services,” said Bugni. “There are people in the service we’ve been serving for 30 to 40 years now. You are with us on long-term internships. The ability to have them under a guardian is impractical. There are people who have very intense needs and to expect a family to satisfy them is unrealistic. “
AWARE has approximately 170 open positions out of approximately 900 full-time positions. This reflects an already reduced capacity to relieve some of the pressure on the remaining employees.
‘There is no possibility’
Debora Speyer is the co-guardian of Devin, a 26-year-old who has been with AWARE since 2012 and lives in a residential group in Butte. Speyer met Devin when he was 7 years old and she took care of short-term care. Their weekly meetings rose to two, then three times a week, and eventually Speyer played a constant role in Devin’s life as a foster parent.
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