Summit has been extremely busy this fall combating efforts on the federal level to dismantle long-term services and supports, namely the Community First Choice Program and the Medicaid program, as well as trying to beat back devastating budget cuts that have been proposed by Gov. Bullock on the state level.
While for the time being we have been successful in our efforts to stop the dismantling of long-term services and supports at the federal level, we face a very real and very dangerous series of potential state-level budget reductions that could decimate human services throughout Montana. These proposed cuts to long-term services and supports include:
- The elimination of the Personal Assistance Services program
- The elimination of optional targeted case management services in children’s mental health
- The elimination of the family education and support program within DDP
- The elimination of optional targeted case management services within DDP
- The elimination of the part C infant and toddler program serving developmentally disabled and at risk children age 0-36 month
- The elimination of the Big Sky RX program
- The elimination of targeted case management for children and youth with special healthcare needs
- The elimination of dental coverage for high cost, extensive dental procedures and dentures for adults
- A rate reduction for incontinence supplies in the amount of $1,457,314
- A rate reduction for durable medical equipment in the amount of $3,942,316
- A reduction of $6,821,206 to the Medicaid Big Sky Waiver program
- The elimination of the Healthcare for Healthcare Workers program
- The elimination of optional Hospice services
- A reduction of $6,463,098 to the Community First Choice program resulting in the elimination of optional services
- A reduction of $1,072,516 for mental health crisis intervention and jail diversion grant
- The elimination of targeted case management services for adults with severe disabling mental illness
- The closure of four Vocational Rehabilitation offices (Hamilton, Polson, Browning, and Bozeman)
- The elimination of the Montana Youth Leadership Forum program
- The elimination of the Montana Youth Transitions program
- The elimination of Orientation and Mobility Instruction for approximately 300 children with low vision or blindness
- A $570,000 reduction in extended employment services
The proposed cuts will set funding for critical programs back over a decade and there is no telling how long it will take programs to recover from this level of cuts, if ever. Medicaid services and providers are still trying to catch up after the budget cuts of 2003 and the level of cuts staring us in the face today will have an even more significantly negative impact on the people who rely on these services.
The proposed cuts are also a poor financial decision. Not only will the State lose valuable matching funds from the federal government (CFC alone has a 6% enhanced match rate from the federal government), community services are the most cost-effective method of providing services to Montana’s disability and older adult populations. The elimination of funding for community-based services could leave more individuals with no choice but to seek services in higher cost care settings such as nursing homes, the state hospital, MDC, or other institutionalized care settings that come at a far greater cost to taxpayers…or worse, to go without services which could leave many unable to survive.
Montana in many ways has led the country with self-directed services and the HCBS waiver program, along with CFC. These programs are vital to facilitating people with disabilities, older adults and families with children to remain in their own homes and stay actively involved in school, work, volunteerism, worship, and general participation in community activities along with everyone else. The role that community human service programs play in facilitating this is also a core fundamental component of the Americans with Disabilities Act and has been affirmed by the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision.
Montanans with disabilities and older adults have no other alternatives but to rely on the long-term services and supports provided through the Medicaid program as these unique services and supports are not available through Medicare or the private insurance market and paying for these services out-of-pocket is impossible for a vast majority of the population.
What can you do to help fight these cuts?
We all need to work together to let the Governor’s office as well as Legislators know how important each and every one of these services are. Please go to http://balancedbudget.mt.gov to send a message to the Governor’s office as well as to http://leg.mt.gov/css/Sessions/65th/roster.asp?HouseID=0&SessionID=111 to find your legislators and send them a message.
Tell both the Governor and your legislators that Montana’s budget cannot be balanced solely with budget cuts and ask them to put aside their political differences and work together to come up with a more balanced solution to balancing Montana’s budget that will not harm individuals with disabilities, children, or older adults.