Local Officials Weren’t Warned of State Cuts to Missoula Foster Child Health Program
While the number of Montana children in foster care continues to climb, the state of Montana is cutting back on services for foster children and foster families. Missoula County Commissioner Jean Curtiss says the Missoula City County Health Department was hit with a surprise cut to its foster child health program.
“The biggest number that I know, right off the top of my head, is about $60,000 that was cut from the foster child program that was piloted by Missoula County,” Curtiss said. “What this program does is it helps kids that are in foster care to make sure that they have a medical home, that they have a treatment plan, you know, they could have asthma but their foster parents don’t know how to deal with that… it’s a lot of coordination and it’s been a big success and a big help for lots of foster parents.”
Curtiss wonders why cuts were made to the program rather than other programs, but is particularly distressed by the lack of communication from DPHHS officials and the Governor’s office over where the cuts were coming from.
“The bad thing is that they didn’t let us know that they were cutting it until November,” Curtiss said. “So we’ve been providing the service, the school year begins in July, counting on that money and they didn’t notify us at all. So it’s really interesting their lack of notification and process. There’s probably ten kids that we aren’t serving right now and we have to focus, you know, are we just going to work with the littler kids?”
Curtiss,who just announced her bid for re-election, says she is fighting for funding to be reinstated and is looking for more partners to keep this vital program running for Missoula County's foster children. She also serves on the Board of Health and says opioids and other drugs have led to a full jail, full courts, and an increasing number of foster children in need. To add to the difficulties, Curtiss says the Child Development Center which works with kids with special needs has also been forced to cut back the number of hours it can spend helping families.