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Dismantling of Our Community System of Services by DPHHS

Something historic is happening in Montana.  The community system of services that keep people with disabilities living and contributing to their communities is being dismantled.  It is also being dismantled by the Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS).

There have been many stories recently about the effects of the recent cuts to Medicaid services.  They have been about cuts brought about by legislative enactments in the general 2017 legislative session, cuts brought about as a result of the November 2017 special session and more obscurely, cuts that have occurred because of contractual actions on the part of DPHHS.

These cuts have been to community services provided by private non-profit businesses.  These cuts have largely not been to any institution run by MT DPHHS. This is blatantly discriminatory, as it will force people into the most restrictive settings for care.  It is a travesty that will take years from which to recover.

There is plenty of blame to go around.  However, now, while there is no legislature in session, we desperately need to hear from our Governor as to how we are going to right this wrong.  

Although options to address this crisis are limited, they exist.  We need to hear from our leader that there is a plan to address and repair our system - whether it be via options provided to him by Senate Bill 9 or a supplemental appropriation. 

At a recent hearing, we heard of someone who went into psychiatric crisis and attempted suicide after receiving a letter from MT DPHHS about cuts to services.  The public needs to know now that there is a plan.  They need to know that our leader cares about their fate.

Click here for an explanation of how SB9 includes two funding mechanisms through which a portion of agency HB 2 budget reductions may be mitigated. 

Click here for the FY 2018 General Fund Revenue Update #2 prepared by Legislative Fiscal Division.

After cutting case management, Mental Health Center looks at deeper funding cuts

Published in the Billings Gazette, January 27, 2018
By Susan Olp

Already grappling with cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates, the South Central Montana Regional Mental Health Center now fears it could be looking at even deeper cuts.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services is proposing revising three codes relating to chemical dependency services that will affect the center’s reimbursement rates. A hearing on the changes will be held Thursday in Helena.

The Mental Health Center offers mental health and chemical dependency treatment in an 11-county area. It has offices in Billings, Hardin, Red Lodge, Columbus, Big Timber, Roundup and Lewistown. Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Gallatin loses mental health caseworkers due to state cuts

Published in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle January 27, 2018

By Katheryn Houghton, Chronicle Staff Writer

Come February, Breanna Hume’s job won’t exist. Until then, she’s trying to transfer some of her three-dozen clients who live with a destabilizing mental health illness to other case managers in Bozeman.

But her options are running out for those people who need help connecting to things like doctor’s appointments, rehab and therapy. And Hume is watching her field dwindle as a symptom of Montana lawmakers stabilizing the budget.

“It’s terrifying,” Hume said, a case manager with Winds of Change based in Bozeman. “If the people fall out of services, they will mentally decompensate. I don’t think lawmakers understand what that looks like, or that like anyone else, they’re just one life event away from being in a mental health crisis.” Click here to read the article in its entirety.

$8.9M Cut to dental services will hit Montana's elderly, disabled hardest

Holly K. Michels,  December 17, 2017

Helena - Dentists around the state are concerned that $8.9 million in cuts to Medicaid dental services enacted during a special session of the Legislature last month will severely impact the state's elderly and disabled.

In response to an anticipated revenue shortfall and the most expensive fire season in state history, Gov. Steve Bullock in August asked departments to propose 10 percent reductions totaling $227 million to balance the budget. Those proposals were eventually whittled down to $76 million, but cuts to dental services remained on the chopping clock when the Legislature convened last month.

States are required to provide a level of dental coverage for children covered by Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, but benefits for adults are optional. Click here to read the article in its entirety.

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DRM Board of Directors Meeting

The DRM Board of Director's meeting is scheduled for Friday, July 27, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., at the Disability Rights Montana office located at 1022 Chestnut Street, Helena, Montana 59601. The public is welcome. If you wish to attend, please call our office at 406-449-2344 or 1-800-245-4743 and let us know whether you need an accommodation.

Click here for the agenda.

DRM releases its March 15, 2018, electronic newsletter

Articles include updates to cuts to DPHHS Services, voting for people with disabilities, announcing the retirement of Laurie Danforth, DRM Paralegal and introducing our new advocacy specialist, Becky Fleming-Siebenaler. Click this link to the newsletter.

Disability Rights Montana's specialty license plate is now available. You can purchase the plate by visiting your county treasurer's office. A one-time administrative fee and production cost for the specialty plate will be collected along with the standard vehicle registration fee and sponsor donation fee.

DRM License Plate Design

$20 Yearly Tax-deductible Donation to DRM
$10 One-time Administration Fee
$10 One-time Production Cost

Please show your support with the DRM license plate! Your purchase of the plate includes a $20 tax-deductible donation to support DRM and its work to protect the rights of Montanans with disabilities.

Montana Mental Health Care Advance Directive

With the creation of advance medical care directives being so popular, people are also asking if they need a Mental Health Care Advance Directive to document their wishes for treatment and care in the event that they become incapacitated through a mental illness. The purpose of the Mental Health Care Advance Directive is to "promote more timely, informed, compassionate, and effective mental health care," among others. See Mont. Code Ann. § 53-21-1301. Disability Rights Montana has created a form and instructions to assist people who experience mental illness to prepare a Mental Health Care Advance Directive to prepare for the possibility that they may become unable to express their own wishes regarding their care and treatment. A Mental Health Care Advance Directive provides the legal authority for provision of mental health care during a period of incapacity, even over the person’s own protests. Mont. Code Ann. § 53-21-1301.

This Mental Health Care Advance Directive form and associated documents and instructions are not legal advice, nor are they a substitute for consultation with an attorney. Click here to download the Montana Mental Health Care Advance Directive form.

DRM Education Website and Student Rights Handbook

Disability Rights Montana launched its Education Website and published its Student Rights Handbook. The project is designed to help parents, advocates, and educators learn about the legal requirements and resources available for students with disabilities and to help ensure the civil and legal rights of students with disabilities are protected to the maximum extent of the law. The site focuses on the educational rights of children with disabilities, but also covers information applicable to students with disabilities of all ages. Our Education Website can be accessed here on our home page by clicking "Education" on the Menu Bar above or directly at The Student Rights manual can be found on the site or directly at  

On the site you will find information about DRM′s education workgroup, the legal rights of students with disabilities, resources for parents, students and educators, and sample forms to assist parents and advocates in protecting student’s rights. It is our hope that this website will be a valuable resource for everyone working to educate Montanans of all abilities. 

We welcome feedback and comments for how we can improve our Education Website as well as information about resources and practitioners we should include. As always, if you have questions, please feel free to contact DRM. DRM’s Education Website and Student Rights Handbook were authored by Tal Goldin, supervising attorney for DRM’s Education Unit, with editing assistance from Kelsi Steele, DRM Education Advocate, and Laurie Danforth, DRM paralegal and executive assistant. The project was supported in part by a generous grant from the Montana Justice Foundation.


Best Practices in Community Services for People Who Have Developmenta...

Below is a video of a converation with Allan Bergman with a positive view of the national movement to close institutions, as it has led to the creation of systems that help people live fuller and more positive lives than they had in institutional settings.

This video is a follow-up to the first in the bipartisan public education series "Best Practices in Community Services for People who have Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities" which was held on March 23, 2016, at the Montana Capitol. The bipartisan public education series was developed by Senator Ed Buttrey and Senator Mary Caferroto to help build More....

DRM Releases Report
Disability Rights Montana released a report January 23, 2015, with significant details of numerous case stories of abuse and neglect at the Montana Developmental Center.  Investigations conducted by the Department of Justice over the course of the past year reveal that twenty-seven staff members, including the Director of Quality Assurance and Superintendent, have been involved in the case stories.  Some of the cases involve serious injuries, rape, and felony assault.   

DRM has monitored MDC for more than twenty years, and cites a climate and culture at MDC that perpetuates and tolerates abuse.  The cases cited in the report document slapping, grabbing, squeezing, pulling residents by the ankles, throwing them hard to the ground, kneeling o More....

Overview of the 2017 Legislative Session

We went into the session with some very good proposals from interim committees and the Sentencing Commission. These included bipartisan proposals to expand waiver slots for senior and long term care by 200 over the biennium to address a waiting list of over 500, to create an interdisciplinary committee to review our antiquated guardianship laws, provide funding for the area agencies on aging and for respite services, funding for housing to transition people from prison to the community, licensure of peer support specialists for people with mental illness, suicide prevention efforts, and reforms to the current sexual assault laws to more appropriately address how sexual assault actually occurs.

These proposals were great ideas and many were successful More....