Western Montana Mental Health CEO resigns

One of the state’s largest mental health and addiction service providers will soon begin looking for a new chief executive.

A representative for the Western Montana Mental Health Center said this week that the Missoula-based organization has decided not to renew Levi Anderson’s contract after his five years as CEO. Anderson’s last day at the organization was Friday, May 19.

Western has contracted Cascadia Management Group, also based in Missoula, to help with the administrative transition for the next two to three months. The president of this group, Colleen Rudio, oversees Western as an interim executive administrator. She framed Anderson’s exit as a mutual decision between him and Western based on the nonprofit’s desire to “seek a different style of leadership” and prioritize collaboration with other providers. health care.

“Right now the organization needs to focus on its relationships and the organizations in each of its communities,” Rudio said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Ensuring where we need to be, when we need to be there, that’s really what I think the board is focusing on in its next direction.”

Anderson was unavailable for comment prior to publication.

Western, long the backbone of behavioral health services in western Montana communities, has faced financial headwinds for years. The state legislature in 2017 slashed Medicaid reimbursement rates, particularly for case managers, destabilizing many Medicaid-dependent providers the year before Anderson took over as Western’s leader. The COVID pandemic has increased staffing constraints and overhead costs.

Although the organization has continued to provide a myriad of services, including crisis stabilization and comprehensive school and community treatment (CSCT) in public schools, Western has also closed programs and lost contracts in recent years. In an April interview with KFF Health News, Anderson said Western’s overreach of services has made the closure of some programs more visible.

“We have become the face of system failure because we are the only organization providing these services,” Anderson said at the time.

Lawmakers from both political parties doubled their increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates for providers during the 2023 Legislature, bringing new investments up to $330 million in state and federal funds, according to Rep. Bob Keenan, R-Bigfork, chair of the health budget subcommittee.

But these supplier rates are not yet set in stone. The budget bill containing the proposed increases, House Bill 2, has not been sent to the governor’s office and may change form when it does. Gov. Greg Gianforte, who has the power of a by-clause veto on budget bills, was asked in May by Senate Majority Leader Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, to carve out some of the proposed increases in supplier prices. Republicans and Democrats succeeded. during the last days of the legislature.

If that happens, providers will still see a historic increase in Medicaid reimbursements. But industry advocates say no less than lawmakers agreed on the risks of keeping community services at a loss.

“As with all businesses, costs have risen for Medicaid providers at an unusually high rate of inflation,” Mary Windecker, executive director of the Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana, said in an email Thursday. “Since 2019, many services for children and adults have closed due to low tariffs and will have to be reopened at a higher cost. The additional money allocated by Senator Fitzpatrick’s colleagues will be critical to reopening these closed programs and reversing the impact on communities of the 2017 budget cuts and the global pandemic.

Western is always making changes to services, in addition to its leadership, with financial forecasting in mind. The organization decided this month to turn a residential drug recovery treatment program, Recovery Center Missoula, into a lower-level residential program, freeing up the five existing residents and laying off eight employees in the process. RCM was the only treatment program in Missoula licensed as a 3.5 facility based on American Society of Addiction Medicine criteria.

Rudio, the interim executive at Western, said the decision was made partly for financial reasons. But she said the adjusted permit will allow the 16-bed facility to fill its census and shorten its existing waiting list. While the organization hasn’t announced any additional closures or schedule changes, Rudio hasn’t ruled out the possibility.

“I’m not going to say that there won’t be any program changes in the future, but what I’m going to tell you is that there are no programs that we are currently considering in terms of eliminations or reductions,” Rudio said.

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