October 1, 2023 3:49 pm
Protest Erupts in Helena as Residents Decry Closure of Vital Children’s Mental Health Program
Protest Erupts in Helena as Residents Decry Closure of Vital Children’s Mental Health Program

Dozens of people gathered in Helena on Monday night to protest the closure of a residential mental health program that treats young children. Residential treatment for kids under 14 is rare across the country. That’s why families said it’s a big blow to the mental health system.

As cars drove by the state capital, Intermountain Residential staff and families protested the program’s closure. Earlier this month, Intermountain announced its decision to close the program Sept. 22, citing staffing shortages.

Fourteen-year-old Helena resident Kaylee Chartier is here with her mom because she knows first hand how good the care is. “They made me feel like I was welcome there and they made me feel I wasn’t just another kid,” Kaylee said. The facility serves young kids with severe mental and behavioral health issues.

Kaylee’s mom Amy Chartier said the treatment Kaylee received helped her find common ground with her daughter after a death in the family. “It gave me hope that our family could be put back together,” Chartier said.

Intermountain’s board of directors in a letter said the facility will reopen, but it’s unclear when and what changes could be made. Clinical Director Ashely Brown said staff are scrambling to place roughly 16 kids in other facilities. “We serve young kids. For kids age four to 14, which we are licensed for, there’s almost nothing. There’s very, very few around the whole country,” Brown said.

Intermountain serves both local families and kids from around the country. That’s why Intermountain Residential’s closure is a big deal. Brown said so far, finding new residential treatment for kids at the facility has proven difficult. MTPR’s Shaylee Ragar contributed to this story.

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