A Safe Haven Begins to Surface in Somers

By Beacon Staff

Gathered in a snow-covered pasture in the serene Lower Valley, nearly 50 community members toasted champagne glasses and waved sparklers last week, celebrating a milestone that overshadowed winter’s frigid temperatures.

More than 10 years in the making, a new permanent therapeutic group home for children and their families is surfacing off North Somers Road south of Kalispell. Intermountain, a nonprofit agency that operates four care centers across the state, is preparing to break ground on its 5,500-square-foot Providence Home. When it opens in 2014, the permanent facility will become a safe and secure shelter for children in need of intensive care and support.

“It’s so well deserved in our area and such an underserved need,” Flathead County Commissioner Cal Scott told gatherers at last week’s ceremony. “We have hundreds of children out there in our area, I’m sorry to say, that need the help.”

The new site is being designed like a large home, with dining space, bedrooms and playgrounds that will create a safe and comfortable environment. It will also include adjacent staff offices and on-site security.

The facility will expand on Intermountain’s current efforts by doubling the amount of space available for the agency’s 24/7 services. The Helena-based nonprofit has operated a local outpatient clinic in a cramped facility leased in Evergreen since 2008. It began as a crisis shelter and has evolved into a robust safe haven and community resource, providing crisis care, foster families, a youth group home, outpatient therapy and other family based services.

On a daily basis, the agency serves roughly 65 kids up to the age of 12, according to its administrators. In the past five years, the organization has cared for an estimated 400 children and families.

At the Evergreen clinic, four children can stay for an extended period of time. The new site will be able to accommodate at least eight.

“There’s a lot of need in this valley; a lot of marginalized folks who are really struggling and a lot of kids unfortunately who suffer in the middle of that and need a lot of help,” said Jim FitzGerald, CEO of Intermountain.

Intermountain and its board of directors, which includes local community members Don Patterson of Yellow Bay, Robert Lopp of Kalispell, Katherine Curtis of Columbia Falls and Pam Schapper of Whitefish, worked with Flathead County to secure a $450,000 community development grant through the state’s Department of Commerce. The grant will help offset the new facility’s $1.64 million cost. Intermountain is preparing to launch a public fundraising campaign to gather the remaining $291,000.

“A facility like this doesn’t come without a large price tag. Our community is ready to step up and shoulder our part for this,” said Glacier Bank President Bob Nystuen, who attended the celebration and spoke up in support of Intermountain.

He added, “I just can’t imagine what some of the lives of these young children would amount to if we didn’t have Intermountain here.”

Image courtesy of Intermountain | Click here to enlarge

Intermountain was founded as a grade school in Helena in 1909. Today the agency is one of the longest serving social organizations in Montana, with four community clinics — in Helena, Great Falls, Butte and Kalispell — and nearly 200 staff members, including board certified psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and nurses.

The need for Intermountain’s wide range of family services has increased in recent years, emphasizing the importance of expanded facilities like the upcoming one south of Kalispell.

“Certainly the Great Recession in the last few years put additional struggles on families,” said Matthew Dale, president of the Intermountain board. “It’s been especially harsh and difficult these last few year. I’d love to tell you that Intermountain is going to go out of business but I don’t see that.”

For more information about Intermountain, visit http://www.intermountain.org/

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