Layoffs could hit Helena Industries - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Layoffs could hit Helena Industries

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A change in the way Montana provides services for people with developmental disabilities could force Helena Industries to lay off more than two dozen employees.

Currently, Helena Industries and three other nonprofits receive state contracts to provide targeted case management services for thousands of developmentally disabled Montanans. Those services can include help with everything from living arrangements to medication and paperwork for Medicaid applications.

But last week, the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services announced during a conference call with its contractors that those services would be taken over by state employees, starting April 1.

“It was quite a shock,” said Barbara Walsh, Helena Industries’ interim CEO. “We expected rate cuts, but we didn’t expect the whole service to be taken away.”

DPHHS leaders say the change was necessary after the agency’s budget was cut by $49 million during a special state legislative session last month. They estimate the switch will save about $2.5 million a year.

According to DPHHS, all 2,700 people who currently receive comprehensive Medicaid waivers will continue to receive targeted case management services. However, people who aren’t eligible for Medicaid will no longer get those services.

Leaders said they will release more details about the transition to the new system in the coming weeks.

Helena Industries is currently providing case management services for more than 700 clients in 11 counties, from offices in Great Falls, Bozeman, Butte, and Anaconda. Walsh said it is likely all four offices will have to be closed, and the 26 people who work there will have to be laid off.

Walsh said the decision doesn’t directly the nonprofit’s remaining operations in Helena, which provide more than 100 jobs, including many for people with developmental disabilities. However, she said case management revenues made up about a third of Helena Industries’ budget – and helped pay for those other services.

“Any time a nonprofit makes a decision, you do support some that you know are valuable, but they don’t necessarily cover all their costs,” she said. “We’re going to have to look at each of those production areas and say, ‘What can we do to either change it, or can we collapse some stuff together?’”

Walsh also said she’s concerned that the change may lead to some clients not receiving the attention they need.

“The local communities will take the burden with the crises as they increase,” she said. “That’s a hard transition for our clients.”

DPHHS released a statement Thursday from agency director Sheila Hogan.

“DPHHS is committed to serving developmentally disabled clients who receive targeted case management services,” the statement said. “This is an integral part of ensuring these individuals receive the services they need to remain in the community. DPHHS will be able to continue to deliver targeted case management to 2700 individuals at a minimum. For those who will be impacted, we are currently working on a transition plan for those individuals.”

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