BILLINGS — The Rimrock Foundation’s plans for a new campus on North 13th Street and Sixth Avenue North have come to an abrupt halt. The addiction treatment center has been boasting about the new facility since September of 2021, but those plans have been dropped.
“We are very, very grateful for the donors that did believe in us, and for the capital campaign that went on," said Jeff Keller, the CEO of the Rimrock Foundation, on Wednesday. "Very excited about the donors that have kept the money with us."
The foundation announced its plans for a new 78,000-square-foot campus to combat that growing need back in 2021. It would have doubled the facility’s capacity, bringing all of the services together under one roof.
But the COVID pandemic, followed by record national inflation and supply shortages, threw a wrench in its plans.
“Things were moving pretty good. We were doing really well on fundraising and the board was behind it. And then, of course, things turned. Things turned quickly, I guess. And so we had to be able to react to that,” Keller said. "We had a new building going up on Sixth (Avenue North) and we were pretty excited about it... It ended up being that, because of the economy and where things are going, we had to put things on pause."
The board decided to pause construction, and during that time was presented with an offer too good to refuse.
"While we were on pause, about six months into it, seven months into it, we were approached by a motivated buyer to look at it. The board decided (that) we don’t know what the outcome’s going to be with the economy," Keller said. "So this is a good opportunity to maybe pursue that with a motivated buyer, and we did. So now we’re looking at what the next opportunity is."
Keller began his position on April 12, taking over for Lenette Kosovich. Since then, he says things have been busy.
“Things are going well. It’s busy, it’s exciting, it’s a whole different industry than I thought. I’ve been on the board for 12 years so I knew what I was getting into, and I’m just glad I can give back to the community,” Keller said. "The need is growing and that’s unfortunate. We’re in an industry where it’s tough, and it’s kind of got some ugly things. The demons are pretty strong. It seems to be with the stress and COVID and everything else going on, people are turning to substance use."
It, however, means those on a treatment waiting list will have to wait even longer.
"There is a concern, as there are more and more people coming to the east side of the state," Keller said. "There’s the Rimrock, if you will, counterparts that are on the other side of the state, they’re closing their doors. They can’t keep the doors open. And so those folks have to go somewhere."
Keller does have hope for other agencies to step up in the meantime.
"We have a Substance Abuse Connect group out there, and Zach Terakedis(the group's executive director) is doing us a great job of getting us all at the table and to figure out what our strengths are. Let’s not compete, let’s get together. I’m a big believer that all the boats rise when the tide rises," Keller said.
But this is no doubt a blow to a growing population.
"The waiting list is long, but we're doing the best that we can to get people in as fast as we can," Keller said. "It’s not all cupcakes and rainbows, but at the end of the day, we all want to do what’s best for the community, and that part I do like."
To learn more about the Rimrock Foundation's original plan, click here.
“We’re going to make sure that we are responsible financially with the money that we are going to be given to do what we have to do for the new Rimrock when it happens down the road,” Keller said. "It will happen. It’s not an if, it’s just a when."