WATCh East transition is in the final stages

By 
Hunter Herbaugh
Thursday, August 18, 2022
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Ranger-Review Staff Writer The Montana Department of Corrections announced earlier this month that the repurposing of the WATCh East facility in Glendive into a privately run community substance abuse treatment center has entered its final stages.

The DOC’s announcement came in the form of a press release on Aug. 1. The press release was not sent to the Ranger-Review.

The announcement that the WATCh (Warm Springs Addiction, Treatment and Change) program would be transitioning to a new community treatment program was made back in November 2021.

No public updates on the transition process from Community, Counseling and Corrections Services, Inc., the non-profit organization that oversees the WATCh East program, have been made since that time and numerous phone calls and emails from the Ranger-Review seeking comment over the past several months have not been answered.

WATCh East is a treatment center for felony DUI offenders, offering them a rigorous correctional program as an alternative to prison time. It opened in Glendive in 2005. It will now transition to the Badlands Recovery Center, a privately run substance abuse treatment center. This also means the program will go from being governed by the DOC, to being under the supervision of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Mike Thatcher, CEO of CCCS, explained in November that the transition of the WATCh East program was necessary as the program had suffered significant financial losses for several years due to declining enrollment and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re bleeding profusely, have been for the last several years. So in lieu of re-purposing it from a business end, we would have had to close it down regardless,” Thatcher explained at the time.

To accommodate the transition, the DOC stated in its release that the department would continue to provide support for the time being. Beginning this month, the department will be referring DUI offenders to other treatment options in the state while the program’s current participants will either be transferred to another facility or, pending a review of the individual, released to community supervision.

“Offenders in the WATCh East program will be released to community supervision or transferred to other correctional facilities based on their individual risks and needs. The DOC will assist staff at the new Badlands Recovery Center with case review, transition planning and transport of offenders over the next couple of months,” the DOC said.

The facility is owned by the DOC and will continue to be owned by the department with CCCS leasing it for the new recovery center. When the Badlands Recovery Center will be in operation is still unclear. According to the DOC, CCCS is still working with the DPHHS to complete the licensing process required to accept Medicaid reimbursements.

Reach Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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