Kaitlyn, age 32, utilized for a spot at Hope Center Ministries near the tip of 2021 on account of it appeared like her best suited selection on the time. She had pleaded accountable in February to a minimum of one rely of authorized endangerment related to reckless driving and, after being launched, violated her probation by reportedly failing to point up for check-ins and possessing drug paraphernalia. Courtroom data say she had instructed her probation officer she’d been using methamphetamine, while she denied having a problem with medication or alcohol. The women’s sober dwelling home in Clancy, her lawyer advised, would help her get out of jail and supplies her a structured setting to recuperate from substance use. 

“I didn’t truly know fairly a bit about it,” Kaitlyn acknowledged in a December interview. “He merely instructed me that it was a remedy center and that I’ll acquire benefit from it.” 

Montana Free Press agreed to hunt recommendation from Kaitlyn by a pseudonym to protect her privateness. 

The residence in Clancy is one in all two Hope Center Ministries areas in Montana, along with a males’s program in Butte, and 36 nationwide. Though it’s described as a “drug dependancy remedy center” on its Fb internet web page, the nationwide admissions coordinator who testified at Kaitlyn’s November 2021 listening to in Boulder described it as a “long-term faith-based drug and alcohol restoration program.” On its nationwide web page, Hope Center Ministries says its operate is to “lead addicts and their households to develop into completely devoted followers of Christ.”

Consistent with a courtroom transcript of the listening to, Kaitlyn’s public safety lawyer instructed District Courtroom Select Luke Berger that Hope Center Ministries’ 34-bed girls’s home would provide her with some restoration help and help her hold compliance with the phrases of her probation.

The prosecutor on Kaitlyn’s case, Jefferson County Authorized skilled Andrew Paul, argued for a particular route, telling the select he thought Kaitlyn needed medical dependancy remedy. He requested Hope Center’s then-admissions coordinator, Ashley Drake, what kind of medical docs the group had on staff on the house the place Kaitlyn could be going. None, Drake replied. Nonetheless she acknowledged this technique would transport residents off-site for any compulsory psychological properly being care needs, therapy or diagnoses.

“Nonetheless you’d agree with me that medical staff could be relevant for somebody who’s chemically hooked on substances, wouldn’t you?” Paul requested.

“Successfully, that will truly rely on which restoration technique that you just simply choose,” Drake answered.


Hope Center Ministries, which opened its Clancy home in 2020, is one occasion amongst plenty of unlicensed and unregulated sober dwelling residences presently working in Montana. The functions can provide housing and help to of us coming out of jail, jail, or medical remedy, nonetheless there’s no state oversight of the businesses they provide. Like most states, Montana doesn’t require sober dwelling facilities to be licensed by the state in an effort to operate. Till they provide medical corporations that profit licensure as a residential remedy facility, sober dwelling properties in Montana are moreover not required to utilize licensed dependancy counselors, social workers, or psychologists. 

Throughout the absence of dependable state oversight, commerce groups have formed to set the bar for ethical necessities. At a Would possibly presentation to Montana lawmakers and regulation enforcement officers, Nationwide Alliance of Restoration Residences Authorities Director Dave Sheridan acknowledged such properties are usually designed to be distinct from medical inpatient remedy and may embrace many alternative kinds of restoration programming and residential governance. The group’s certification necessities, he acknowledged, take care of whether or not or not restoration residences operate with “integrity.” 

“They uphold residents’ rights. They’re making a convention of empowerment,” Sheridan acknowledged. “We’re moreover working to ensure that residences are true home-like environments, that they’re not institutional and custodial, and that they provide restoration help.”

Montana dependancy restoration specialists have spent the ultimate yr making a NARR affiliate to certify such properties, an effort that program staff say will resolve up tempo over the next yr. Nonetheless the state’s restoration commerce has prolonged operated with out state regulation or neutral accreditation, making a constellation of suppliers with disparate necessities. With out oversight, reform advocates say, sober dwelling residences in Montana and nationwide could be unsafe, punitive, and financially exploitative for a weak demographic often enmeshed throughout the authorized justice system. 

The dearth of regulation has moreover created a murky panorama for judges, prosecutors and safety attorneys weighing medical remedy for substance use points and non-clinical restoration functions. With caseloads full of people charged with drug-related offenses, regulation enforcement entities are generally beneath pressure to hunt out group placements and remedy facilities eager to take defendants. 

“Any selections are risk when your solely totally different risk is jail,” acknowledged Claire Lettow, managing lawyer for the Office of Public Defender space that options Cascade County. Lettow acknowledged she and totally different attorneys in her office have had buyers apply for beds on the Hope Center residences in Clancy and Butte partially as a result of shortage of inpatient remedy of their jurisdiction. 

“There’s a handful of outpatient remedy suppliers proper right here, nonetheless there is a lack of sober dwelling and there is zero inpatient remedy,” she acknowledged.

All through Kaitlyn’s listening to, Hope Center Ministries’ admissions coordinator, Drake, outlined that the year-long program accommodates 24-hour supervision, Bible look at and a obligatory “vocational teaching program” whereby residents work at native job web sites that preserve staffing contracts with the ministry. In the end, she acknowledged, residents purchase further privileges throughout the home to help them put collectively to transition once more into the group. Drake acknowledged the earnings residents generate by the use of their work placement helps pay for the value of their hold inside the home, and as well as serves as a major revenue for this technique.

Credit score rating: Image-illustration by Melissa McFarlin / MTFP

Sam Martin, Kaitlyn’s lawyer, instructed Select Berger that releasing Kaitlyn to the Clancy home would help preserve her in compliance with the phrases of her probation and supplies her some nice advantages of a supportive setting. 

“Their program focuses on providing not solely restoration components for dependancy, however moreover life helps and customary betterment of any individual, should you’ll,” Martin acknowledged, together with that this technique would help Kaitlyn “get out of the cycle that she is presently in.”

Paul, the county lawyer, disagreed.

“Select, to call this remedy is kind of a stretch since they don’t have any sort of medical personnel that are accessible to assist somebody with their chemical addictions. It’s principally a kumbaya. ‘We’ll deal with you for money.’ And that’s all it is,” Paul acknowledged. “It is merely a spot the place Hope Ministries is getting money.”

Berger in the end sided with Martin and agreed to refer Kaitlyn to the Clancy program as a scenario of her continued probation. He careworn that he did not have the power to mandate her attendance at Bible look at or to complete any religious service, nonetheless affirmed that she was agreeing to abide by the rules of this technique to which she had utilized. 

As part of an prolonged clarification for his willpower, Berger instructed Kaitlyn and the courtroom that he can’t know what sort of dependancy program might work for each one who appears sooner than him. 

“I hate to say it this fashion, nonetheless you’re going to point out one in all us unsuitable,” the select instructed Kaitlyn. “If that’s what works for you, then this works for you.”


When she confirmed up on this technique’s doorstep, Kaitlyn instructed MTFP, she thought the home was beautiful, with scenic views of the encircling mountains. Shortly she was following the equivalent strict pointers and routines as totally different residents, doing house chores, discovering out the Bible and ending related homework assignments. One train required residents to make use of scripture to their life experience and write a prayer. Kaitlyn acknowledged that early morning observe was her favorite train. 

“It helped me day-to-day,” Kaitlyn acknowledged in a December interview. “It constructed my character. It gave me further confidence than I ever had sooner than.”

All by her time at Hope Center Ministries, she acknowledged, she in no way labored with a licensed provider on an dependancy restoration remedy plan. Whereas this technique let residents schedule “counseling” intervals with volunteers who visited the house, Kaitlyn acknowledged the oldsters facilitating these intervals weren’t licensed professionals.

“I don’t perceive how they’re open within the occasion that they don’t have any licensed of us,” she acknowledged. “They’ve been merely people who had study the Bible,” Kaitlyn acknowledged. 

The director of Hope Center Ministries’ Clancy home, Carolyn Belling, declined MTFP’s requests for an interview about this technique and did not reply to an emailed itemizing of questions regarding the experiences shared by Kaitlyn and totally different residents. Quite a few calls and emails to the nationwide group weren’t returned.

After about six weeks on the home, Kaitlyn began working roughly 40 hours each week at one in all Hope Center Ministries’ contracted vocational teaching job web sites, a burrito restaurant on the Carroll College campus in Helena operated by Sodexo, a nationwide meals service agency. Sodexo did not reply to MTFP’s questions on its work settlement with the ministry. 

Kaitlyn and two totally different former residents who labored at completely totally different Helena corporations instructed MTFP they did not receive paychecks from their job placements and weren’t scheduled to acquire value until the ultimate eight weeks of this technique — an element, Drake had testified, all through which residents research financial accountability and companies can “actually add them on” as staff. 

“You weren’t paid,” Kaitlyn acknowledged of the ministry’s vocational teaching program. “It acquired despatched to the Hope Center.”

Two totally different former residents who spoke with MTFP acknowledged they spent their vocational teaching at Taco Bell areas in Helena, the place they labored 40 hours per week. Joseph Sample, the owner-operator of Taco Bell areas in Helena and Butte, confirmed the businesses’ relationship with Hope Center Ministries to MTFP, saying they’ve employed 14 members from the vocational program over the previous 18 months. Quite a few, Sample acknowledged, have stayed on as staff after leaving the Hope Center residences, and one is “on observe” for a administration place.  

“We’re proud to produce an opportunity for people in our group to have a second chance,” Sample acknowledged. Neither Sample nor a nationwide Taco Bell spokesperson responded to additional questions regarding the agency’s contracts with Hope Center Ministries.

Hope Center’s vocational teaching program serves two principal capabilities, in line with the group’s nationwide web page. It’s meant to help residents bolster their work ethic all through restoration whereas providing “additional earnings for the ministry.” In federal tax filings from 2019, the ultimate yr for which the Inside Earnings Service has a complete submitting publicly accessible, Hope Center Ministries reported that “work treatment” accounted for larger than $3.3 million of the group’s virtually $6 million in complete revenues that yr.

The ministry moreover accepts donations, grants and gadgets to help its mission, a category that totalled about $1.7 million in 2019 revenue. As a result of the group opened its two Montana areas in 2020, one in all its funders has been the Gianforte Family Foundation, the philanthropic perception of Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, First Lady Susan Gianforte, and their 4 children. The muse gifted Hope Center Ministries a cumulative $70,000 between 2020 and 2021, in line with the assumption’s present nonprofit tax paperwork.

Nationwide, a complete lot of drug and alcohol rehabilitation functions require residents to work with out pay, each for this technique itself or at contracted corporations, in line with a 2020 investigation by the knowledge outlet Reveal. At some high-profile sober dwelling residences in numerous states, residents receive free medical remedy, housing and meals, nonetheless not monetary wages for his or her labor. Critics say that enterprise model is ethically fraught for people with substance use points, and a attainable violation of the federal Trustworthy Labor Necessities Act. 

“The prolonged and the short is there’s no exception throughout the Trustworthy Labor Necessities Act … that will cowl this circumstance,” acknowledged D. Michael Hancock, counsel on the nationwide Cohen Milstein regulation company and a former assistant administrator for the U.S. Division of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. “If somebody works at Taco Bell, they’re entitled to be paid for his or her labor, interval. I’m unaware of any Taco Bell exemption from the Trustworthy Labor Necessities Act.”

“You would have a decided inhabitants who desperately want help. And so they additionally’re eager to enter these functions, even when it signifies that they’re going to be exploited.”

Authorized skilled D. Michael Hancock

Hancock is among the many many attorneys litigating a set of situations in the direction of the Salvation Army on behalf of former residents of the group’s grownup rehabilitation functions, claiming the charity did not take care of residents as staff nonetheless required them to labor with out sufficient pay. An equivalent lawsuit, licensed as a class movement this yr, is continuous in the direction of the Texas-based Cenikor Foundation for allegedly pocketing tons of of hundreds of {{dollars}} in wages earned by residents of its drug and alcohol rehabilitation functions. 

Together with conflicting with federal regulation, Hancock acknowledged, the work-without-pay model takes profit of people with few totally different selections, plenty of whom lack safe housing and an earnings to afford sustained remedy.

“You would have a decided inhabitants who desperately want help. And so they additionally’re eager to enter these functions, even when it signifies that they’re going to be exploited,” Hancock acknowledged.


Kaitlyn moreover acknowledged Hope Center staff requested her to enroll in SNAP, most of the people meals assist program, whereas she was on the residence. Two totally different former residents recounted the equivalent experience, saying that, after their functions have been authorised, they turned their benefits taking part in playing cards over to Hope Center staff for purchasing household groceries. Meals within the house was intently monitored, the earlier members acknowledged, and the fridge and cupboards locked outdoor of designated meal events. 

Jessie, a former resident who moreover requested MTFP to hunt recommendation from her with a pseudonym to protect her privateness, acknowledged residence staff did not return her meals assist card when she achieved this technique. 

“They weren’t going to supply it to me as soon as I left,” Jessie acknowledged in a December interview. “They weren’t going to bodily give me my card. They acknowledged that they may put off it. And I merely didn’t perception that.”

After leaving the home, Jessie acknowledged, she known as the state properly being division to report her revenue card misplaced or stolen, in the end telling a division employee that the power was attempting to take care of it. 

MTFP could not affirm whether or not or not the state Division of Public Nicely being and Human Corporations or the U.S. Division of Agriculture, which oversee the meals assist program, have ever investigated Residence Center Ministries’ use of SNAP benefits primarily based totally on Jessie’s criticism or each different tales. Nicely being division spokesperson Jon Ebelt acknowledged nonprofit group properties that are smaller than 16 beds can apply to utilize SNAP benefits primarily based totally on the eligibility of their residents, nonetheless that such facilities would pay money for their very personal group home card. Ebelt would not affirm whether or not or not Hope Center Ministries was an authorised group home for SNAP use, saying “that information is confidential” primarily based totally on federal regulation and state authorized pointers governing the administration of public benefits. 

Saima Akhtar, a senior lawyer on the Nationwide Center for Laws and Monetary Justice, acknowledged that whereas federal legal guidelines can allow for some congregate settings to utilize SNAP benefits for residents, the benefits technically belong to the individual, not the power.

“That is the language of the federal regulation. That is the federal customary,” Akhtar acknowledged. If a resident leaves this technique, she continued, their benefits ought to change with them. “The benefits do not belong to the corporate. The benefits should journey with the resident,” she acknowledged.

Whereas the state properly being division does publish findings on explicit individual tales of SNAP abuse and fraud, the names of the occasions are redacted and don’t level out whether or not or not Hope Center Ministries has ever been the subject of an investigation. In December, MTFP filed a Freedom of Data Act request on the lookout for any documentation related to investigations of Hope Center Ministries by the U.S. Division of Agriculture, nonetheless did not receive a response sooner than publication.


Tales of unethical enterprise practices mustn’t uncommon throughout the restoration commerce, along with work with out pay, financially motivated affected individual referrals, and profiteering from gratuitous drug testing. With out oversight, the prevalence of exploitative and unethical conduct in Montana has been not attainable to quantify. Nonetheless native authorities and state lawmakers have currently begun pushing for further regulatory mechanisms to take care of tempo with the commerce.

In March, the Billings metropolis lawyer’s office provided to lawmakers and regulation enforcement officers on the state Jail Justice Oversight Committee regarding the minimal information and anecdotal tales it had amassed about roughly 35 sober dwelling properties inside Billings metropolis limits. The difficulty to collect information began, assistant metropolis lawyer Karen Tracy acknowledged, in response to complaints lodged with the Billings Metropolis Council about unchecked sober dwelling home operators. Tracy instructed legislators and regulation enforcement stakeholders on the committee that the city lawyer’s office had acquired tales of substandard housing circumstances, residents having their possessions held as collateral in the event that they did not pay lease, and an “terribly fixed theme” of evictions for minor violations.

“We now have a extremely weak inhabitants of residents who may probably not really feel comfortable contacting regulation enforcement, who won’t have the sophistication of availing themselves of the landlord-tenant courts,” Tracy acknowledged. “So we’ve acquired an issue proper right here the place we’re inserting of us into these properties or they’re coming into these properties voluntarily they often’re being taken good thing about by your shady or sketchier operators.”

After months of look at, the committee drafted a model new proposal for lawmakers to consider in the middle of the 2023 Legislature that will convey a degree of oversight to the sober dwelling commerce, along with a model new requirement that dependancy restoration residences register with the state properly being division. If adopted, the bill would moreover explicitly bar restoration residences from making false or misleading statements about their corporations beneath menace of prosecution for violating the Montana Consumer Security Act.

“We now have a extremely weak inhabitants of residents who may probably not really feel comfortable contacting regulation enforcement, who won’t have the sophistication of availing themselves of the landlord-tenant courts.”

Billings assistant metropolis lawyer Karen Tracy

Throughout the coming months, further restoration home operators may even be succesful to voluntarily search certification from the Restoration Residences Alliance of Montana (RRAM), the state affiliate created in 2021 that will accredit properties primarily based totally on nationwide biggest practices. As of December, RRAM had licensed three organizations working 10 properties in Billings, Missoula and Ronan.

Hope Center Ministries’ Clancy Director Belling did not reply to questions on whether or not or not the residence plans to make use of for certification by the use of RRAM. If it does, its operations will probably be measured in the direction of the latest commerce necessities, which emphasize respect for residents’ rights and prioritizing their safety, properly being and well-being. 

Nancy Marcus Newman, a Pennsylvania-based civil rights lawyer who has represented restoration residences and lectured on unethical practices throughout the commerce, acknowledged it’s arduous to see how a chunk treatment program using residents’ paychecks as revenue would align with best-practice necessities for sober dwelling properties.

“It’s a democratic, self-help restoration setting the place residents are on the lookout for their independence and learning about taking accountability for themselves. And I imagine that getting a job and getting a paycheck and learning the best way to be financially neutral is probably going one of many targets,” Newman acknowledged. “I don’t see the place taking that money from somebody is in any method contributing to their restoration.”


Regardless of restoration commerce reforms Montana may advance throughout the coming months, quite a few residents have already cycled by the use of sober dwelling residences working with none necessities for prime quality assurance, biggest practices or efficacy. Whereas some residents might need left functions with months of sobriety and a imaginative and prescient for his or her future, others gained rather a lot a lot much less.

Credit score rating: Image-illustration by Melissa McFarlin / MTFP

Kaitlyn was discharged from Hope Center Ministries throughout the spring of 2022 after being fired from her job at Sodexo and accused of violating the residence’s pointers. She instructed MTFP she felt sabotaged and unsupported by this technique, no matter her efforts to graduate. One night, she acknowledged, Belling, this technique director, drove her away from the residence, bought her a cellphone from Walmart, and dropped her off at God’s Love, a downtown Helena shelter. Kaitlyn acknowledged there was no invitation to return again once more.

“It felt truly shitty, truly,” Kaitlyn acknowledged. “She merely acknowledged ‘good luck.’” 

Throughout the months after, courtroom data current that Kaitlyn failed out of 1 different placement on the YWCA in Helena after testing optimistic for meth and returned to jail to attend until her subsequent listening to sooner than Select Berger. As of December, a few yr after she first arrived on the Hope Center, she was able to be transferred to Passages in Billings, a girls’s correctional facility that provides inpatient drug and alcohol remedy. If given an opportunity to return to the Clancy home, Kaitlyn acknowledged, she in all probability wouldn’t take it. 

“I don’t assume I would return, truly,” she acknowledged.

That’s the major article in a two-part assortment about Montana’s restoration residence commerce. The second story, which focuses on the state’s evolving oversight strategies for the presently unregulated properties, will probably be printed Jan. 4, 2023. 

How we reported this assortment: 

Montana Free Press spent two months speaking to substance use dysfunction specialists and restoration residence operators about Montana’s regulatory panorama for sober dwelling facilities. This reporting moreover included learning protection tales and listening to protection shows regarding the operate of restoration residences in dependancy restoration and biggest practices for the commerce. Our reporter interviewed larger than a dozen current and former judges, safety attorneys, prosecutors, remedy suppliers and social workers about avenues accessible to of us charged with drug- or alcohol-related crimes. MTFP reached out to former residents of the Hope Center Ministries’ home in Clancy, a number of of whom declined interview requests, and spoke with three girls about their experiences. These accounts have been corroborated by the women’s former colleagues throughout the vocational teaching program along with authorized courtroom data and transcripts. Quite a few makes an try to solicit comment and participation from Hope Center Ministries’ native and nationwide workplaces have been unsuccessful. 

By Editor

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