“Ever since we received that letter, our intention has been to save him,” said Mary Jo Bremner, Chair of the Glacier County Commission, of the Glacier Care Center and a notice that Lantis Enterprises is terminating the facility’s lease on January 31 would. According to Bremner, the center at Cut Bank is one of 10 to be closed across Montana, seven of which are managed by Lantis.
The county received two letters from Jackson, Murdo & Grant, PC on October 6 and 24, stating that their customers were terminating the lease on the center. Bremner and District Attorney Terryl Matt spoke to Lantis’ Wendy Soulek on November 14 for clarification and learned that Lantis is terminating the lease due to state government actions affecting Montana nursing homes.
Human Resources Director Mike Kittson reports that he, Commissioner John Overcast, former care center director Allison Harvey and current director Cherie Taylor then called Logan Health to see if there was any interest in running the center. They were told Logan was not interested in the opportunity and cited concerns about staffing issues they say are occurring across the state.
“So we started reaching out to other healthcare providers,” Kittson said. “We are looking regionally and have met with representatives from the Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPPHS).” The DPHHS includes the branch of the Governor’s Office of Community Service Long Term Care that oversees care centers in Montana.
“It’s Glacier County’s responsibility to find an operator … so we’re reaching out to a lot of facilities and DPHHS,” Kittson said. He said other options could include working with the Blackfeet Tribe, whose care center also has a high rating – or ultimately asking county voters to support the facility with a donation of millions.
The commissioners’ meeting that followed Monday, November 21, at the Cut Bank Courthouse was attended by Wendy Soulek and Leah Rinard of Lantis – the former by phone and the latter in person – and Kristi Rowell of the care center.
For her part, Bremner said she was “shocked” to find that by terminating the lease, Lantis was essentially handing over the facility and residents to Glacier County. Noting that the rent is only $1 a month and includes insurance and other costs, she noted that Glacier Care Center received a five-star rating.
Regarding problems with the facility’s roof, she said while everything is in place to fix it, it will be next summer before weather conditions allow work to continue.
“We will do everything in our power to save the nursing home,” Commissioner Overcast said.
Speaking for Lantis, Rinard assured the commissioners that her organization wanted to work with Glacier County to find another option. She offered to provide a list of companies that might be interested in running the facility. While Chairwoman Bremner said the district was already looking, she welcomed the offer.
Commissioner Overcast said he spoke to state lawmakers, who told him ARPA money that could be used for nursing homes could come in the next January legislature.
“Is there a way to get more time?” he asked Rinard, who said it was possible with the district’s support.
In the end, Lantis officials said they would make a proposal to the district to keep the facility open longer while commissioners work to fix electrical problems created by the faulty roof. Bremner said she will present the proposal to CFO Chancy Kittson and get back to the matter as soon as possible.
“Give us a suggestion and we can try damn well,” Bremner said.