Health department getting back $30M slashed in budget cuts

August 31, 2018

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials restored $30.5 million that had been cut from the state health department’s budget after a projected revenue shortfall turned out smaller than anticipated.

The money is part of $45.7 million that’s being restored out of the $76 million lawmakers slashed from agencies’ budgets during a special legislative session last year, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported Thursday.

Part of the funding will restore cuts to Medicaid rates, said Gov. Steve Bullock’s budget director, Dan Villa. Targeted case management for children’s mental health and behavioral health also will receive some of the health department’s share of the restored money.

Hundreds of people attended recent hearings where the state discussed which agencies would get restored funding. Health department spokesman Jon Ebelt says that information was used to decide what services to fund with the restored money.

Other programs with money restored include a new computer system to track child protection cases, dental and orthodontic care, and the Stars to Quality early childhood education program.

The cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates had drawn lawsuits from groups including Disability Rights Montana, and Villa said he was hopeful money to restore rates would lead to lawsuits being dropped.

Beth Brenneman, an attorney with Disability Rights Montana, said she was happy to see some money coming back to the health department but there was still more to resolve.

“It’s going to take more than a couple of months to build this system back,” Brenneman said. “It’s a real tragedy what happened. I appreciate some money is going back in, but we have a lot to do in the legislative session.”

Other budget restorations include $2 million for financial aid for Montana higher education students and $1.8 million over the next two years for a water rights settlement with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

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