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Interim CEO says Alluvion Health is focused on the future after financial setbacks

Bill Preston, interim CEO of Alluvion Health
Alluvion Health
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Posted at 5:39 PM, May 21, 2024

GREAT FALLS — Alluvion Health has experienced a series of financial setbacks over the last year.

In September, they announced a 'reduction in force' and leadership furloughs.

In October, they closed subsidiary company Adlera Lab which eliminated 16 more positions.

In November, Alluvion ceased to provide mobile response services for patients in crisis.

In January, CEO Trista Besich resigned her position.

Most visibly in the community, renovation work on the Rocky Mountain Building at 601 Central Ave was halted in the fall after Sletten Construction, Liberty Electric and other companies filed construction liens against Alluvion.

That led to the removal of a crane that had dominated the Great Falls skyline for nearly two years.

It was a tangle of issues for Alluvion Health interim CEO Bill Preston to sort through when he was appointed in February.

“How did we get here? That's been a question I’ve ask myself ever since I stepped into this role over the last 90 days,” Preston said. “But, we're here. We had a great vision, a plan, and things went south.”

Alluvion Health

A combination of factors led to the issues facing the organization. Changes to the Montana medicaid redetermination process has led to more than 130,000 Montanans losing health care coverage and a massive backlog of reimbursement payments which has adversely affected Federally Qualified Health Centers across the state.

The COVID-19 pandemic also led to an inflation of goods and services relating to the renovation of the Rocky Mountain Building. The building was intended to be converted into a full service facility that would bring all of Alluvion’s different branches under one roof.

“The project started out somewhere around $19 to $20 million when Phase 1 started. And then and once Phase 2 started and we were coming out of COVID, then inflation hit and everything skyrocketed. The project ballooned to about $44 million,” Preston said. "I don't know many projects that can double in size and cost without stronger financial backing in place. And we're not quite there yet.”

Preston and the staff at Alluvion are working with stakeholders on a path forward with 601 Central Ave. They’ve had several meetings with Sletten Construction who are still on board with moving forward with the project once Alluvion is back on firm financial footing. But nothing is off the table.

"So I don't know what's going to happen, but everything's on the table. I know that there's a bunch of interest. We've explored every possibility for the building,” Preston said. "We've actually had developers look at it in a partnership with us, and so it's there right now and we're just going to continue to work through that process.”

Alluvion Health in Great Falls
Alluvion Health in Great Falls

But Preston said that Alluvion Health is making solid steps toward financial stability.

“I think we probably started seeing that light about a month ago and so we're at a point where we're starting to be able to get caught up on most everything,” Preston said. “We’re starting to put money back in the bank, starting to develop our reserves, starting to look at how we expand some of the things we are doing and what we're doing right."

Until Alluvion Health is in a position to expand their offerings again, they’ve been focused on their core services: Medical, Behavioral Health and Dental.

"We have continued to grow our patient base over the last eight months and year over year. We had 134% increase in patients in 2023 over 2022,” Preston said. "So we're doing everything right. Our medical volumes are going up, our dental volumes are going up, our behavioral health volumes are going up and and our focus is to first and foremost, take care of our patients.”

The organization recently received a $100,000 donation to support the newly established Mental Health Fellowship Program. which will help launch an endowment for sustained mental health initiatives at Alluvion Health. The donation came during Mental Health Awareness month.

“All of those services are going to be enhanced thanks to a donation from a family that uses those services,” Preston said. “They see the importance of that."

Preston understands that Alluvion Health is emerging from a challenging time but wants the public and his staff to know that the organization is not going anywhere and is making steps to rebuild trust and get back on firm financial footing.

“It’s a step by step process and we’re going to do it intelligently and do it slowly,” Preston said. “We’re going to grow it and make sure that we can service it. And that’s where we’re at with most of our service lines."