Budget Cuts End Case Management for Developmentally Disabled

Contracts with A.W.A.R.E. Inc., Opportunity Resources, Helena Industries and the Central Montana Medical Center expire on March 31 and will not be renewed

By Associated Press

HELENA — Montana’s health department is ending its contracts with four organizations that provide case management services for about 2,200 adults with developmental disabilities — a move that will put about 70 people out of work.

The cuts are among those being made due to Montana’s projected $227 million budget shortfall. The contracts with A.W.A.R.E. Inc., Opportunity Resources, Helena Industries and the Central Montana Medical Center expire on March 31 and will not be renewed, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported.

Targeted case managers help those with developmental disabilities to get necessary services and medical care, help getting and keeping jobs and assistance transitioning to independent living.

Under the cuts, clients who are not eligible for Medicaid will no longer receive case management services, the Department of Public Health and Human Services said.

About 2,700 clients who are eligible under the Developmental Disabilities Program Medicaid waiver will continue to receive targeted case management services, however it’s not clear how many clients being served by the four agencies will continue to receive services, officials said.

Health officials announced on Dec. 21 it was ending the contracts with the four agencies. Officials said health department employees will absorb some of the caseload with case managers in Helena, Missoula and Billings. The move is expected to save the state about $2.5 million a year. The health department’s share of the state budget cuts is about $49 million over two years.

Opportunity Resources of Missoula will no longer provide case management services for 830 clients and 27 people will lose their jobs, said Jessica Hageman, director of case management.

Jaci Noonan with Anaconda-based A.W.A.R.E. said it serves 600 clients and will close offices in Red Lodge, Miles City, Sidney and Glasgow. Around 20 people will lose their jobs.

Deb Heerdt, director of case management for Helena Industries, said 732 people in Butte, Anaconda, Great Falls and Bozeman will lose services and 26 employees will lose their jobs.

Jamee Barman, case management supervisor with Central Montana Medical Center in Lewistown said 70 people will lose their services from the center. Her three employees may be able to get jobs elsewhere in the hospital, Barman said.

The directors say losing case managers could cause some of their clients to end up in nursing homes or without the services that allow them to stay in their own communities.

“I think there will be a lot more law enforcement involvement when people go into crisis,” said Pat Noonan, director of community relations at A.W.A.R.E. “There will be more filing of (the state mental hospital at) Warm Springs. A lot more people will end up in an institution like the Montana Developmental Center.

“There’s nobody to help them before they go into crisis and get into trouble. It sends us backward,” Noonan said.

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