Adequate funding needed for addiction recovery services

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For nearly 45 years, the Flathead Valley Chemical Dependency Clinic has served the region by providing critical addiction recovery services.

Last week we learned the clinic was dissolving and that beginning June 24 Gateway Community Services, a nonprofit treatment center based in Great Falls, will be taking over operations. It’s a relief to know that operations will continue at the clinic’s established offices in Kalispell, Libby and Thompson Falls.

It’s disheartening, however, to learn that a lack of public funding was cited as a key factor in the clinic’s decision to close.

In late 2017, the state Legislature slashed funding for Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services. According to Mike Cummins, executive director of the Flathead Valley Chemical Dependency Clinic, the $49 million budget reduction led to a cut in Medicaid reimbursement rates that cued the closure of multiple mental-health facilities statewide, including two group homes in Kalispell. That was followed by another cut last year in reimbursement rates that specifically took a toll on addiction treatment providers.

Cummins described the back-to-back blows as “devastating” to the clinic’s bottom line.

The drug and alcohol epidemic facing communities across Montana has been well-documented — more addiction recovery services are needed, not fewer. Adequate public funding is a necessary part of the equation to keep nonprofits like the Flathead Valley Chemical Dependency Clinic viable. We can only hope that Gateway Community Services finds a way to continue the clinic’s important work in a time when these essential services are needed more than ever.

The Flathead Valley is fortunate to have folks like Allen and Linda Erickson, who have gone the distance and then some to help our military veterans.

This husband and wife dynamic duo has been providing services to veterans for more than two decades, first creating the Veterans Stand Down events and then starting the Northwest Montana Veterans Food Pantry that offers not only food but also clothing, furniture and medical supplies.

Their latest project is transforming the long defunct Swan River Correctional Training Center near Condon into the Camp Ponderosa Veterans Retreat and Learning Center. They envision a live-in treatment facility in which vets can get counseling and group therapy and professional help with learning job skills.

We have no doubt the Ericksons and their faithful volunteers will get the job done, but there’s an opportunity for the community to step up and help, too. If you can offer donations of equipment, services or financial support, give them a call at 406-756-7304.

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