Budget cuts will hit most vulnerable, not bureaucracy

Print Article

Gov. Bullock has called a special session to address budget shortfalls. We all hoped that any special session would include efforts to eliminate human services cuts that will hurt vulnerable Montanans. But don’t be fooled. As called, the special session will not protect the disabled, elderly, and other Montanans in need. The best-case scenario from the special session as called assumes $110 million in cuts to the Department of Public Health and Human Services, with most of those cuts not to the bureaucracy, but to direct services to people — the cuts that hurt the most.

These are cuts to critical community and health services provided by small businesses throughout the state. They are in addition to cuts proposed by the administration earlier this year, which are on hold but still loom as a possibility and are not part of the special session. Providers are already taking steps such as closing group homes, limiting services, and laying off staff. These cuts hurt those who depend on the services and cost Montanans jobs and the tax revenue from that employment.

The $110 million in cuts include eliminating or significantly reducing:

— Medicaid coverage of dentures for adults, including elderly people in nursing homes and at home who must have dentures to maintain basic nutrition. 

— Mental health services that will further diminish rural services, increase admissions to the State Hospital, and erode progress on jail diversion, which saves counties money.

— Funding to independent living projects, which assist disabled Montanans with basic needs such as bathing and dressing so they can go to work and pay taxes.

— Programs which keep seriously mentally ill children from being sent to institutions and stabilize them at home, where long-term success is more likely.

— Services that provide in-home care and assisted living for physically disabled and elderly people, while saving money by avoiding higher cost services. 

— Family education and support services, which help families of people with developmental disabilities to provide care and be less dependent on outside assistance.

— Evaluation and diagnosis clinics that provide early diagnosis and facilitate treatment of developmental disabilities, even though early detection is the best and most cost-effective approach.

— Incontinence supplies for Montanans who can’t afford such essential supplies, but can’t function without them.

— Adult targeted case management, which helps people with severe mental illness avoid institutionalization, resulting in more pressure on state institutions, which cost nearly $600 per patient per day.

— Targeted case management for people with developmental disabilities.

— Substance abuse services despite lengthy waiting lists and increased demands due to sentencing revisions. 

Montana is in a budget crunch, but to propose cuts that will have such severe impacts to our fellow Montanans and our communities is the wrong way to go. Other options must be explored. In part, cuts are being proposed to comply with a 2015 state law that requires a general fund surplus of around $143 million — much more than previously required. Going back to the pre-2015 level could eliminate many of these cuts.

Re-examining the ending fund balance and all other options must be discussed. It is unacceptable to hold a special session that defines success as cutting essential services to people. A budget reflects our values. The current budget proposal says we place little value on our elderly, disabled, mentally ill, and other vulnerable neighbors.

Contact the governor’s office and your legislators to tell them Montana’s values are not reflected in the proposed cuts and that the special session needs to look at other options.

Rose Hughes is executive director of the Montana Health Care Association. This letter was also signed by:

Beth Brenneman, Disability Rights Montana

Rev. David Andersen, Montana Association of Christians

Dave Hemion, Montana Dental Association

Rose Hughes, Montana Health Care Association

Joel Peden, Montana Independent Living Project

Sue Weingartner, Montana Optometric Association

Marti Wangen, Montana Podiatric Medical Association

Duncan Campbell and Michele McKinnie, Montana Psychological Association

Catherine Drescher, Montana Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Travis Hoffman, Summit Independent Living

Jodi Daly, Western Montana Mental Health Center

Brenda Kneeland, Eastern Montana Community Mental Health Center

Barbara Mettler, South Central Regional Mental Health Center

Sydney Blair, Center for Mental Health.

Print Article

Read More Letters to the Editor

Taking a cold, hard look at mass killings

February 18, 2018 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake As a parent, I am terrified of the idea that my daughter’s life, or any child’s life, could be in danger at school. I’m heartbroken for the parents who lost children, students who lost friends, and...

Comments

Read More

Guns are not responsible for murder — people are

February 18, 2018 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake I feel it might be timely to remind everyone that the only time a gun is an “assault” weapon is when it’s used to assault. When used to defend, well, guess what — it’s a “defense” weapon. I want to b...

Comments

Read More

The safety of our children and communities

February 18, 2018 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Washington, D.C. is broken. Our representatives choose time and again to bend to the interests of lobbyists and corporate donors at our expense. I have spent my entire career as a consumer protec...

Comments

Read More

Blame Trump and GOP for mass murder

February 18, 2018 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake One year ago Trump signed his first piece of legislation — a stand-alone Republican, NRA bill to make it easier for the mentally ill to buy guns. Trump, the NRA, and Republican lawmakers are fighti...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

News: (406) 837-5131
Advertising: 406-758-4410
Bigfork Eagle
c/o Daily Inter Lake
PO Box 7610
Kalispell, MT 59904

©2018 Bigfork Eagle Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X