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Bullock admin reconsiders ending case-management contracts for developmentally disabled

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Dept of Public Health and Human Services office in Helena Dept of Public Health and Human Services office in Helena
HELENA -

The Bullock administration is reconsidering its decision to cut contracts with four nonprofit companies that manage services for 2,700 people with developmental disabilities across the state.

Company officials told MTN News that they met last week with top state health officials, who asked the firms to make a counter-proposal by Wednesday to maintain the contracts at a reduced rate.

The Bullock administration told the companies in December that it planned to end the contracts and take over the case-management duties itself.

“My hope is that we can work out something with the state,” said Josh Kendrick, the CEO of Opportunity Resources Inc. in Missoula. “We’re hoping we can save as many positions as possible.”

Companies said after the December announcement from the state that the contracts would end, they notified more than 70 case-managers that they’d be out of a job by April 1.

Case managers help developmentally disabled adults live independently by helping them access other services, such as job training or Medicaid coverage, or to get involved in recreation or other activities.

The Bullock administration said Monday that the meeting late last week was part of its “continuing effort” to maintain open communications with the providers.

“It’s important to note that DPHHS did not want to cancel the contracts with the providers for (developmentally disabled) case management,” the Department of Public Health and Human Services said in a statement. “However, DPHHS was forced to make these cuts as a result of decisions made at the last legislative session.”

The Legislature, in bills signed by Gov. Steve Bullock, cut the agency’s budget last summer and at a special session in November.

Pat Noonan, public policy officer for AWARE Inc., which has about 40 case managers serving 800 developmentally disabled people, said Monday he’ll be interested to see what proposal the companies can come up with – and whether the state will accept it.

The state’s proposal to take over the job itself would mean state employees would have case-loads much higher than allowed by the contracts that are being canceled, Noonan said.

Barbara Walsh, interim CEO of Helena Industries, which has notified its 26 case managers that they’ll likely be out of a job by March 31, said Monday she’s hopeful an agreement can be worked out with the state – but that she’s “not extremely optimistic.”

“We are still looking at whether we can do the services at” the amount offered by the state, she said.

The fourth company with a case-management contract for developmentally disabled clients is Central Montana Medical Center in Lewistown.

Kendrick said he believes that concerns raised by advocates for the disabled helped convince the Bullock administration to reconsider – and that it would be a “huge undertaking” for state employees to take over the case management themselves.

About Mike Dennison

MTN Chief Political Reporter Mike Dennison joined MTN News in August 2015 after a 23-year career as a newspaper reporter covering Montana politics and state government. While some may believe that politics are boring, Mike firmly believes that's not the case if you tell the story with pizzazz and let people know why the story is important.
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