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Home-Care Workers Stress Human Side of Potential MT Budget Cuts

Direct-care workers could lose out on benefits if Montana lawmakers choose to make drastic cuts to the Dept. of Health and Human Services. (Drew Tarvin/Flickr)
Direct-care workers could lose out on benefits if Montana lawmakers choose to make drastic cuts to the Dept. of Health and Human Services. (Drew Tarvin/Flickr)
October 6, 2017

HELENA, Mont. – Montana home-care workers are urging the Legislature to find a better way to fill a massive hole in the state budget. The state could slash agency budgets by 10 percent in order to make up its $228-million deficit. Cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services would come mainly from funds for claims and benefits.

Over the past two days, the Legislative Finance Committee has held meetings on how to cover the enormous shortfall.

Anna Volkersz, a personal care attendant in Bozeman, spoke to the committee on Wednesday about one of the people she cares for, who is a quadriplegic.

"They rely on us," she says. "I have one client who is a quad, and he cannot get bathed, or dress or feed himself. He relies on aides to help him so that he is able to get up and get going for the day, and basically, survive."

Direct-care workers like Volkersz could lose their health insurance under the proposed cuts. She and others are urging lawmakers to hold a special session to find ways to raise revenue and avoid drastic cuts.

On Thursday, the legislative committee sent a letter to Gov. Steve Bullock vowing to work with him and asking him to impose cuts with the "least possible" impact on vulnerable Montanans.

Volkersz is concerned cuts could force some of her clients into nursing homes rather than getting in-home care. That's something she doesn't want to see.

"You know, I call them clients, I refer to them as clients, but they really are my friends," she adds. "My one client that I take care of, I've been with him for almost nine years now."

For Volkersz, the cuts are personal in almost every way. In addition to having her health insurance and work hours scaled back, her daughter also might be affected.

"I have a child who was diagnosed with a mental illness - I think it's about five years ago now, time kind of all blends together - and it could possibly be that some of her services get cut also," she warns.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT