The sole recovery house for women in Bozeman will close next month. The agency shutting the home said it’s a symptom of state budget cuts and the town’s rising cost of living.

Bozeman-based Alcohol and Drug Services Director Shelly Johnson said the closure is another ripple from Montana’s Medicaid and rate reimbursement cuts from 2017. She said last year, the agency lost $125,000 from those reductions.

“With all those budget cuts that we’ve had, all of the costs associated with keeping it open, it’s just impossible to keep the house,” Johnson said. “We have been losing money on it for a while.”

She said the agency is also in a counselor hiring freeze, which lengthened its waitlist for services across programs.

The recovery house can serve seven people and is home to four women today. The residents have until July 31 to find a new spot.

The state contracts with Alcohol and Drug Services to provide the program. Women who live there must enroll in the agency’s treatment services.

“They have a safe, sober living environment while they’re there,” Johnson said.

The house has offered Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and connects the women to rehabilitation aid such as helping them find work and reunite with family.

Johnson said some of the women have homes to go back to while others are looking for housing together to afford Bozeman’s rental market.

The Bozeman home has been a resource since 2002 when it began as co-ed housing. Roughly 10 years ago, the agency split housing between men and women. The agency will keep its recovery house for men.

Johnson said part of the difficulty has been there aren’t many women referred to the program.

“Men are picked up a lot more through the criminal justice system,” Johnson said. “The women also have children they’re often taking care of; the recovery house doesn’t provide services for children. It’s been hard to keep the house full.”

Then there’s Bozeman’s rising prices.

Johnson said while the home’s property owners tried to work with the agency, its rent increased each year.

“Just $50 to $100, but any increase is hard for us,” she said.

The next closest recovery house for women is in Livingston. That would displace the Bozeman women from their jobs, treatment and, in some cases, children.

Southwest Chemical Dependency Program Director Jeanie McCauley said the 14 beds in the Livingston recovery housing are taken.

“We’re usually full,” McCauley said. “The Bozeman house closing will impact people newly out of treatment who will have to wait for another opening who need a place to live because they have a poor environment for their addiction. Sometimes they have nowhere.”

McCauley said the Livingston location is handling the state budget cuts fine at this point. The program shifted its attention to services with better rate reimbursements and dropped the number of hours it offers intensive outpatient treatment — a service that cuts hit hard. McCauley said Medicaid expansion has also been helpful as more Montanans and treatments are covered.

But she’s watched the state’s budget balance whittle services nearby.

Winds of Change, which offered case management for adults with a destabilizing mental illness, closed last year as cuts began.

Months later, Livingston Mental Health Center announced it would close, which meant more than 100 people had to find treatment elsewhere.

The series of closures continued.

“It makes me sad,” McCauley said. “It’s really impacted our state and I think a lot of people worked hard to get all that stuff in place. Community health has lost a lot.”

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services is reviewing its Medicaid rates again. Both Johnson and McCauley said they’re hopeful more money will head back toward services like theirs.

The department will hold a public hearing June 13, at 10:30 a.m., in the auditorium at 111 North Sanders in Helena on proposed Medicaid rates, services and benefit changes.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628. Follow her on Twitter @K_Hought.

Katheryn Houghton is the city government and health reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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