Health service cuts menace Missoula Co. agencies, commissioners


COUNTY COMMISSIONERS TODAY (WED), AS STATE BUDGET CUTS CONTINUE TO SLASH SERVICES. MTN’S AUGUSTA MCDONNELL WAS AT THE PRESENTATION AND JOINS US NOW LIVE IN THE STUDIO WITH MORE, AUGUSTA? THANKS, JILL, DENNIS. THE INFORMATION THAT WAS PRESENTED RESONATED AROUND THE DAUNTING EXPECTATIONS THAT CUTS SPECIFICALLY TO PREVENTATIVE AND CASE MANAGEMENT SERVICES, WILL PLAY OUT DOWN THE ROAD IN VERY HARMFUL AND EXPENSIVE WAYS. IT IS UNKNOWN AT THIS POINT HOW AGENCIES WILL MAINTAIN THE LEVEL OF SERVICES OFFERED NOW IN PLACES LIKE FOR EXAMPLE, THE JAIL AND THROUGH CASE MANAGEMENT SUPPORT OF FOSTER CARE FAMILIES,. THE BURDEN COULD FALL ON LOCAL PROPERTY TAXPAYERS TO BACKFILL WHERE STATE FUNDING CUTS HAVE LEFT A LOOMING GAP, EVEN AS THE CASELOADS OF MANY LOCAL AGENCIES ARE PROJECTED TO INCREASE. AUGUSTA MCDONNELL/REPORT ER THE MONTANA BUDGET AND POLICY CENTER ESTIMATES THAT $200 MILLION DOLLARS WERE CUT FROM HEALTH SERVICES IN MONTANA THROUGH LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS IN 2017. AUGUSTA MCDONNELL/REPORT ER IN LIGHT OF THESE CUTS, MISSOULA COUNTY GROUPS GATHERED TO DISCUSS HOW LOSING STATE MONEY THAT SUPPLEMENTED LOCAL SERVICES ALREADY AFFECTS MANY AGENCIES, FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT TO SOCIAL WORK TO CASE MANAGEMENT SERVICES FOR FOSTER CHILDREN. JEAN CURTISS/MISSOULA COUNTY COMMISSIONER “THE COUNTY PARTIALLY FUNDS SOME OF THESE PROGRAMS. WHEN THE STATE CUTS OUT THEIR PORTION OR MAKES IT SO IT’S NOT EVEN VIABLE TO PROVIDE THAT, IT IS GOING TO HIT THE COUNTY. WHAT WE WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW IS THE ONLY WAY THE COUNTY INCREASES REVENUE TO PROVIDE THIS SERVICE IS ON YOUR PROPERTY TAX. THAT IS NOT A GOOD WAY TO DO THINGS.” AUGUSTA MCDONNELL/REPORT ER MANY OF THESE AGENCIES ARE LINKED BY THEIR CLIENTS, EVEN THOUGH THEY SERVE VERY DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS. ONE PARTICULAR GRAPH PRESENTED AT THE MEETING VISUALIZES HOW CUTTING PREVENTATIVE SERVICES CAN SEND PEOPLE OFF A CLIFF, AND CONSIDERING A WEAKENING SAFETY NET OF HEALTH SERVICES, THIS DOESN’T PAINT A PRETTY PICTURE. ELLEN LEAHY/ MISSOULA CITY COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR “IT JUST SHOWS THAT SO MUCH OF THE COSTS AND THE SUFFERING THAT CAN OCCUR AND ARE OCCURING IN OUR COMMUNITY ARE PREVENTABLE OR AT LEAST CAN BE MITIGATED EARLIER IN LIFE WHEN PEOPLE ARE YOUNG, WHEN FAMILIES ARE YOUNG OR EARLIER WHEN THEY BEGIN TO OCCUR. WHEN THE TYPES OF FUNDING LOSSES OCCUR THAT HAVE HAPPENED, THEY TAKE AWAY–THEY SQUANDER THAT OPPORTUNITY TO PREVENT OR TO INTERVENE EARLY, PEOPLE FALL OFF THE CLIFF, AND SO DOES THE BUDGET.” AUGUSTA MCDONNELL/REPORT ER THE MISSOULA CITY- COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT HAS ALREADY ELIMINATED THREE OF THEIR NURSES AND LOST ADDITIONAL DOLLARS FOR SERVICES. ELLEN LEAHY/ MISSOULA CITY COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR “THEY’RE PREVENTATIVE DOLLARS, PARTICULARLY FOR INFANTS AND YOUNG CHILDREN.” AUGUSTA MCDONNELL/REPORT ER THE DEPARTMENT IS FACING A 77% CUT TO A PREVENTATIVE MEDICAID TARGETED CASE MANAGEMENT PROGRAM FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL HEALTH NEEDS. AUGUSTA MCDONNELL/REPORT ER GFX MISSOULA CITY COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH NURSES AND SOCIAL WORKERS SERVED 533 CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES THROUGH ABOUT FOUR THOUSAND VISITS LAST YEAR. DUE TO THE 77% FUNDING LOSS, THEY EXPECT TO SERVE 130 KIDS. AUGUSTA MCDONNELL/REPORT ER ONE MISSOULA COUNTY COMMISSIONER BECAME EMOTIONAL DURING THE PRESENTATIONS. JEAN CURTISS/MISSOULA COUNTY COMMISSIONER “WHAT WE DO HERE IS AMAZING, AND WE WORK TOGETHER, BUT WE NEED PEOPLE TO JUST SEE THAT WE’RE NOT JUST MAKING THIS STUFF UP, ITS AFFECTING PEOPLE AND FAMILIES.” “THERE ARE PEOPLE THAT ARE HURTING BECAUSE THERE IS A LACK OF DOLLARS OR LACK OF MANAGEMENT OF THOSE DOLLARS…SO, YEAH. IT MATTERS WHEN ITS PEOPLE.” AUGUSTA MCDONNELL/REPORT ER MISSOULA COUNTY ISN’T ALONE WITH THIS DIFFICULTY. HEATHER O’LOUGHLIN/MONTAN A BUDGET AND POLICY CENTER CO-DIRECTOR “WHAT WE ARE SEEING IN MISSOULA COUNTY IS NOT UNIQUE. COMMUNITIES ACROSS THE STATE ARE EXPERIENCING SIMILAR DEVASTATING IMPACTS OF THE BUDGET CUTS THAT WE HAVE SEEN ON A STATE LEVEL. I WOULD SAY LOSS OF SERVICES ARE BEING FELT MOST SIGNIFICANTLY IN OUR RURAL COMMUNITIES, BUT THAT IN TURN IS PUTTING MORE PRESSURE ON OUR LARGER COMMUNITIES TO TRY TO COVER THOSE SERVICES.” ALTHOUGH POLICY EXPERTS AND AGENCIES SAY ITS HARD TO QUANTIFY AT THIS POINT EXACTLY HOW CUTTING THESE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES WILL ACTUALLY IMPACT BUDGETS, COUNTY COMMISSIONERS SAY THEY EXPECT TO HAVE TO MAKE SOME HARD DECISIONS AS THEY FIGURE OUT FISCAL YEAR 19. BACK TO YOU. THANKS, AUGUSTA. WE HAVE AN EXTENDED ARTICLE ONLINE DETAILING MORE INFORMATION ABOUT LOCAL IMPACTS OF THE STATE BUDGET CUTS.

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