On Thursday, Amy Fladmo was telling staff and families staying at Second Chance Homes that because of state budget cuts they’d be out of their jobs and kicked out of the homes where women working on their addictions can be reunited with their children.

By Friday, following online reporting of the news and a clarifying telephone call from Sheila Hogan, director of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Fladmo was able to call staff and the mothers affected to tell them the West End homes won’t be closing after all, at least not for the time being.

Fladmo is executive director of the Center for Children and Families, which operates Second Chance Homes. Currently, 13 mothers live there, together with about 20 children.

Hogan “told me it was a missed communication,” Fladmo said late Friday afternoon. "She informed me they are going through a transitional period and that we can keep the families in the homes, that they will continue to fund those services."

In fact, Fladmo said, Hogan asked Fladmo to fill the homes with four or five additional families. That will be no problem, Fladmo said, because “we get two or three referrals every day.”

Fladmo said she was on her way to a family vacation when she got the news.

“I had to pull over. I was extremely emotional and ecstatic,” she said. “I called all the moms, all the (12) staff who work there, and all the board members. I couldn’t keep driving.”

DPHHS Spokesman Jon Ebelt confirmed that funding will indeed continue indefinitely and that the Center will be invited to submit a request for proposals to continue providing services to the children and their mothers, who are working to overcome addictions.

That process is part of a larger statewide effort, Ebelt said, to “evaluate the outcomes that are resulting from these services. That evaluation is in process, and it is a high priority for us.”

Using metrics to evaluate the success of contract programs “is a clear and direct message we got from several legislators” during the recently concluded legislative session, he said.

Ebelt, too, said confusion resulted from earlier communication between DPHHS and the Center.

“We think there was a communication issue there,” he said, “but we called Amy as soon as we saw (The Gazette’s) story,” posted online Friday morning.

Operating the two homes, which are at undisclosed West End addresses, costs about $60,000 per month.

Ebelt said he didn’t want to put a timetable on how long the RFP process will take.

“Now that the (legislative) session has ended, we are excited to improve all kinds of things, because now we have more time to work on them,” he said. “We have a new director on board and a new deputy director (Laura Smith), and we’re excited to move forward.”

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.