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Proposed state budget cuts hitting funding for Missoula County p - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Proposed state budget cuts hitting funding for Missoula County programs

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MISSOULA - The threat of proposed state budget cuts are starting to have trickle down impacts on local agencies, including in Missoula County.

There is a lot that is unknown about what will happen next with the current budget shortfall facing the state. What we do know is that some agencies are taking action to eliminate funding for programs already on the chopping block -- before official budget cuts are even being made by lawmakers or the governor.

The Foster Child Health Program -- a collaboration of between Providence Medical Center, the Missoula City-County Health Department and Children and Family Services -- received a surprise notice on Friday all funding from the state was ending, effective immediately.

“What we were [was] really surprised...to learn that the funding was cut in advance of that decision actually being made. We didn’t expect that, we are part way into our fiscal year, we have kids on caseloads that need to be served," Missoula City-County Health Department director Ellen Leahy said.

That is 50 to 60 cases that these health care providers work together on to provide critical services to vulnerable kids.

“It is a really important program that we have to really ensure that the foster child’s health needs are met -- their medical, vision, dental, and any special needs they may have," said Nikki Grossberg with Child and Family Services.

"But also, it is a support for foster families, when they have children come into their home, that they don’t know their history, that public health nurse visiting their home really allows resource for the foster parent that also stabilizes placements, in a very positive way for children," Grossberg added.

Grossberg says all three partners have a financial investment, so the Foster Child Health Program can continue as long as the health providers can piece together a way to fill the $65,000 gap left by Children and Family Services eliminating the funding.

“The positive things about the collaboration are the public health department and Grant Creek Clinic have also -- have a financial investment. Child and Family Services does provide funding to the program, but that it is a combined funding source from a variety of moniesm" Grossberg explained.

“How we can maybe lower some of the intensity of the visits -- with the kids. We will be looking at if there’s private partners to support it and get us through this time, while we wait for the decisions. What we are not going to do, is abandon the children," Leahy said.

The Foster Child Health Program has coordinated and provided the health care needs for 600 foster care kids in Missoula County since 2011. There is no word yet from Governor Bullock or the legislature about whether there may be a special legislative session to address budget shortfalls.

Until then, $105 million worth of funding for Department of Public Health and Human Services, providers are waiting to hear whether they will be able to continue their work with Montana’s most vulnerable populations.

The funding cut also eliminates similar services for foster kids in Yellowstone and Cascade counties.

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