Lewis and Clark County leaders are working on a temporary contract, to keep open a local center that serves people with mental health or other issues.
Good Samaritan Ministries will operate the Our Place drop-in center in Helena, until the end of February or when a new permanent provider takes over. Commissioners are set to give final approval to the contract on Thursday, after making final adjustments to the language.
The drop-in center provides a place where those dealing with mental health challenges, homelessness or other struggles can meet with other people and get help with a variety of needs – many of them simple, everyday assistance.
“One person might just need someone to talk to; another person might need getting hooked up with a therapist or a doctor or something like that,” said Commissioner Andy Hunthausen. “There’s a wide range of needs and a wide range of opportunities.”
Our Place, like several other services in Lewis and Clark County, was previously administered by Western Montana Mental Health Center. Western declined to continue providing services in the county after leaders made changes to its contracts.
Theresa Ortega, Good Samaritan’s executive director, said they began work at Our Place on Dec. 30, leaving no gap in services after Western’s tenure ended. They have placed two peer support specialists – people who have experience with these challenges and can help those who come in. In addition, Ortega said they are working with Instar Community Services to have someone at the center on Saturdays.
Ortega said, on the last few days, they have seen about 30 people at the center each day. She said she has been gratified to see a positive response from the people who use Our Place.
The county has issued a request for proposals, seeking permanent providers to run Our Place and the Journey Home crisis stabilization unit. Organizations can apply for either contract or for both.
Drenda Niemann, the Lewis and Clark County health officer, said they will be accepting proposals through the end of January, and that they hope to select someone by the middle of February.
Hunthausen thanked Good Samaritan for being willing to help in this situation.
“Thanking Good Samaritan Ministries for stepping up, stepping in, prior to even having a contract in place,” he said. “They said, ‘We’ll provide services and staff there, so that people that are expecting these services and living with mental illness or behavioral health issues in our community don’t go without services.’”
Good Samaritan’s contract will be for up to $12,291 per month through Feb. 29.
Also on Tuesday, commissioners approved adding just over $100,000 to the county budget, to hire three behavioral health specialists to work in the Lewis and Clark County Detention Center. Those positions had also previously been contracted through Western.