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Helena's Journey Home could become a quarantine for infected inmates

Helena's Journey Home could become a quarantine for infected inmates

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The Journey Home, an adult crisis stabilization facility, closed Jan. 10.

The Journey Home, an adult crisis stabilization facility, closed Jan. 10.

The Helena City Commission will hold a virtual public hearing on Lewis and Clark County's proposal to use the Journey Home, a recently shuttered eight-bed mental health crisis stabilization facility, to quarantine any detention center inmates who contract COVID-19.

The meeting is scheduled to take place during a special meeting Friday at 3 p.m. via a video conference platform. Those interested in virtually attending the meeting can do so by visiting https://zoom.us/j/677018933.

The Journey Home is within a B-2, or general business, zoning district, which does not allow for correctional facilities.

The city has no power to deny the county's proposal to house infected inmates in the facility, but as the acting Board of Adjustment in such matters, the city's special meeting will serve as a public forum for comment as required by state law.

The facility, located at 45 E. 16th St., has six bedrooms and two secured rooms. It also has a security system in place with cameras.

An email sent to city staff by Lewis and Clark County Chief Administration Officer Roger Baltz said "The County is engaged in contingency planning regarding many matters during this time of emergency. The issue of the possible need for a location to isolate inmates at our Detention Center has come up."

Baltz stated in the letter that the facility would be used "only as needed" and its use as a temporary correctional facility would "cease as soon as possible."

The average daily population at the detention center hovers around 104. There are two holding cells and one protective custody cell on site that can be used to isolate an inmate who contracts COVID-19.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said in an interview last week that "we don't have that issue currently, but we anticipate it."

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Local Government and Crime Reporter

Nolan Lister is a reporter at the Helena Independent Record with an emphasis on local government and crime.

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