HELENA – Governor Steve Bullock and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) gathered in the State Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday to announce an $800,000 federal grant for respite services in the state.
Established in 2015, the Montana Lifespan Respite voucher program provides family caregivers of children or adults with special needs a temporary break from their duties by covering the cost of short in-home care, companionship, or outings.
The maximum amount allowed through the voucher program is $600 per calendar year.
Gov, Bullock praised the efforts of respite staff and the success the program has seen in the Big Sky state during Tuesday’s event.
“Over the years we’ve built a program that has built a program that offers flexibility to clients to choose who they want to come into their home to provide respite,” said Gov. Bullock. “This is a solution that works for Montana especially in our rural areas.”
Gov. Bullock added the grant will only further strengthen DPHHS respite services and the Montana families who are fundamentally in need of them.
The competitive three-year grant is provided through the Administration for Community Living (ACL). DPHHS officials said they were not awarded the grant in 2017 and without this federal funding, the Montana Lifespan Respite program would not have continued.
According to state officials, 118,000 Montanans provide an estimated $1.43 billion in unpaid care for loved ones.
“Many of these caregivers are often on call 24/7, often putting aside their own need to serve as an accountant, a cook, a guardian, and assistant, a housekeeper, nurse and companion among many other duties,” said AARP Montana State Director Tim Summers.
The oldest care recipient is 104-years-old and the youngest is under one year.
DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan stated many caregivers in Montana do not seek respite services and will wait until the burden of caregiving has left them overwhelmed.
Since 2015, the program has awarded 400 caregivers across the state with respite vouchers.
“All these factors stress the ongoing need for increased awareness of respite services and their benefits for caregivers,” said Hogan. “The program encourages caregivers to hire family, friends or neighbors they know and trust to care for their loved ones.”
Marni Rolston of Bozeman spoke at the event and expressed gratitude for the respite program, “the program has been invaluable for our family,” said Rolston.
Rolston’s 13-year-old daughter Ida was born with Smith-Magenis syndrome, which prevents her from being left home alone.
“Without respite care, our family would probably be a little bit more stressed and I wouldn’t always act like the mother I want to be for my daughter,” said Rolston.
-John Riley reporting for MTN News