Helena Industries wood shop

In this Independent Record file photo, Helena Industries employees work in their woodworking shop on Helena Avenue making pallets, sheds and wooden stakes. 

With plans to close its doors on April 13, Helena Industries will lay off its employees and stop providing services for hundreds of Montanans with disabilities.

Staff members received a letter Thursday notifying them that the organization will lay off employees over the next week. The Independent Record obtained a copy of the letter after Helena Industries closed for the day and the IR could not immediately reach the CEO for comment. The CEO did not respond to a request for comment about the future of the organization earlier this week. 

Helena Industries provides career development services and workforce programs for people who are developmentally disabled. Those opportunities include working with textiles and wood products, working in the organization's thrift store, providing janitorial services and recycling electronics.

Helena Industries has case management offices in Bozeman, Great Falls, Butte and Anaconda, and its website says it serves more than 900 people with disabilities each year. 

But in response to deep state budget cuts caused by lower-than-projected revenue, the Department of Public Health and Human Services is ending contracts and reducing rates for providers such as Helena Industries. 

“Due to decisions by the state over the last few months, the current rates being offered for bid for case management services will not even cover the costs associated with the case management program,” the letter to employees said.

The money from the state case management program would be nearly half of what the organization received in the past.

The letter also says participation in the vocational job coaching and training program has decreased and service rates have gone down 15 to 20 percent.

“With decreases in both of these programs, we cannot support both the debt load and the remaining programs and we must terminate operations,” the letter said.

Providers, including Helena Industries, said moving away from community-based care could force clients to go into higher levels of care and increase levels of institutionalization.

The organization’s clients will be transferred to the state.

The letter says the board of directors considered multiple avenues before deciding to close and will file for bankruptcy protection on April 17. It warns employees to cash checks by April 16.

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Education / Business Reporter

Education and Business Reporter for The Independent Record.

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