By PEGGY O’NEILL Independent Record
Several days a week, Shannon Gleason drives her two foster children from the south side of Helena to the north side, then to Last Chance Gulch and then back to the north side of town. The cross-town circuit is not due to an over-scheduling of recreational activities for her kids, but rather a commitment to getting them the mental health services they need.
Gleason’s foster children, who are teenagers, receive treatment and attend therapy sessions through Intermountain, a nonprofit organization in Helena that provides mental health and educational help to children in Montana. The organization uses offices in four locations in Helena, including the main campus on South Lamborn, the adoption and family support program on South Last Chance Gulch, a psychiatry clinic on Birch and administrative offices and community services in a building on Partridge Place.
But today, Intermountain will break ground on a 22,000-square-foot building that will bring several of its services under one big roof. The new building will be located at 3240 Dredge Drive and will be called Intermountain Community Services Center. It will house a children’s psychological assessment and treatment clinic, a child and adolescent psychiatry clinic, an office for school-based services and an adoptive and foster family support program.
“Having all those services in just one spot will be a godsend,” Gleason said.
According to Intermountain CEO Jim FitzGerald, it will be the first and largest integrated community mental health center for Montana youth and their families.
“All too often, service for children and their families are compartmentalized and difficult to access, adding to the stress and anxiety for families already stretched to the brink,” FitzGerald said. “While Intermountain has focused on populations of emotionally distressed children, the center allows for an expansion of our mission. (The new building) will be a unique place supporting the well-being of all area families.”
The residential campus on Lamborn will remain the same, with the exception of two new 12-bed cottages that will be built later this year. And while this building is the most recognizable of the facilities, most of the services Intermountain provides are off campus, FitzGerald said.
“The brunt of the services we offer are out in the community — early intervention, keeping kids in their homes and in their schools,” FitzGerald said.
“The new building will be a public personification of what we do — it’s mostly outpatient services,” he said. “The facility opens up the opportunity for Intermountain to be understood.”
The cost for constructing the Intermountain Community Services Center will be approximately $5 million, FitzGerald said. Some of this cost will be covered by a $300,000 grant by the Montana Mental Health Settlement Trust. The rest will come from financing through Valley Bank and donations.
According to FitzGerald, Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply offered Intermountain a favorable deal on the 63,000-square-foot lot. Glacier Bancorp offered an adjoining 33,000-square-foot lot at a similarly favorable cost.
FitzGerald said he expects the services part of the building to be usable by December. The rest of the building, including a second-floor area for Intermountain’s administrative offices, should be completed by March 2013.
The building will have soundproof rooms and separate entrances for the types of services, offering clients additional privacy.
FitzGerald said he’s hoping the building will attract other like-minded entities.
“A building is just a building,” he said, “but it becomes a leveraging point for the greater mission.”
Last year, Intermountain announced plans to buy the Partridge Place building and remodel it to house its community services. But costs to remodel the building and to outfit it with soundproof rooms as well as the limited potential for growth made the space impractical.
“It would not have met our long-term needs,” FitzGerald said.