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Federal and State Elections Are Upon Us

 

Montana Disability Voices Voter Guide

Montana Disability Voices (MDV) is a coalition of nonprofit disability advocacy organizations whose goal is to improve the lives of people with disabilities by building a movement. The MDV developed and distributed an 11-question candidate survey for the 2018 Montana general election.

The survey was emailed to 50 candidates running for the Montana Senate and 181 candidates running for the House of Representatives. Reminder phone calls and emails were sent to the candidates encouraging participation.

This voter guide includes the responses from 52 candidates, a copy of the survey for the readers’ reference, and the names of all the candidates who did not complete the survey.MDV is committed to educating legislators and voters with disabilities on issues that are important to our coalition and reporting to the public, the legislators views and positions on those issues.

For information regarding the coalition, we invite you to visit the MDV website at www.MtDisabilityVoices.org.

If you’d like a printed copy of this voter guide mailed to you, please contact Disability Rights Montana at (800) 245-4743 or email us at advocate@disabilityrightsmt.org

Click Here to View Voters Guide
Vote Early! And please let DRM know if you have any issues with accesibility or accommodations as a voter with a disability. we want to hear about your experience!

Early Voting-- You Don't Have to Wait

The federal and state election is coming up on November 6.  Please remember that if you want to vote, you do not need to wait until election day.

Right now, all county election offices are open and available to give you a ballot during business hours.  It is simple and easy and THERE ARE NO LINES.  You will be able to vote at your local county election office until 12:00 on November 5, the day before the election. 

Also, please remember if you have a disability that makes it difficult to get to the election office, you can use the Secretary of State’s Electronic Ballot Request System to vote at home as long as you have access to a printer .

Vote Early! And please let DRM know if you have any issues with accessibility or accommodations as a voter with a disability. We want to hear about your experience.

Click Here to View County Election Officials List

Budget Cuts and Partial Restoration of Funds Has Long-Term Damage to Community Services

 

As has been widely reported, a lot has happened with the Montana budget this year.  This has been one of the most active interim's between legislative sessions we have seen for a long time.  The results for people with disabilities who use Medicaid services to support their independence have been terrible.
 
Both our Legislative and Executive branches share the blame for this disastrous outcome.  Although it is hard to find agreement as to what was the true cause, motivation or responsibility of the parties involved, one thing is absolutely clear – the funding for essential services for children, adults and seniors with disabilities was severely cut and our community service system was dealt a nearly fatal blow.
 
The cuts that occurred because of a hastily-enacted bill passed at the end of the 2017 session brought about DPHHS’s decision to slash the rates for children and adult psychiatric targeted case management by up to 58%, in addition to cutting the rates for all Medicaid services by 2.99%.  As many providers found, the 2.99% rate cut was significant as the existing rate was already too low to adequately sustain their programs.  The 2.99% was simply too much for some providers to keep all of their doors open.
 
Further actions by both the Governor and the Montana legislature during the November 2017 Special Session resulted in even more cuts, which included decisions to further limit psychiatric and addition services, support for foster children and critical community-based psychiatric crisis services.  Other, less visible cuts also occurred.  For example, many individuals with serious physical disabilities saw drastic cuts to critical home services such as support with dressing, feeding, bathing and toileting.
 
Although it is true that the Governor has used his authority to restore some of these cuts in recent months, we are concerned that significant amounts of this “restoration” money were spent on things that were not cut in the first place.  For example, the vocational rehabilitation program and the Montana State Hospital received significant additional spending, even though neither of them had been cut by the 2017 legislature or during the 2017 special session.  We strongly believe that the restoration funds should have gone instead to those services that were actually cut. 
 
We do not know the fate of all of the many services that were cut and not restored.  However, we do know that those who have had their critical personal care hours cut have not been notified that those hours would be restored, and there seems to be no plan in place to address this critical issue.     

No matter how it is characterized in the press, there will be very few funding proposals for people with disabilities during the upcoming legislative session that could be legitimately be viewed as “increases.”  Our state has a long way to go to get back to where we were before these series of very bad decisions occurred.  We will work tirelessly during this session to support and restore the community services people need to live their lives. 

 

Individual's Experience Service Cuts and Deprived of Their Due Process Rights

 

We have received complaints from many individuals regarding changes that have occurred in the management of services provided by the Senior and Long Term Care Division of MT DPHHS. The complaints include concerns that individuals have:

  1. been notified by telephone, instead of given a written explanation of the termination of services;

  2. had services reduced or terminated without being given an understandable reason;

  3.  been denied the opportunity to get on a waiting list for waiver services; and

  4. faced a sharp restriction of the kinds of equipment and services that are approved to be funded for individuals who currently receive waiver services.

We have also heard terrible stories about individuals who have faced sharp cuts in the total number of hours for home care – especially in the Helena area. 
 
The Division is not consistently providing the required written notice of the individual’s due process rights to contest adverse decisions made by DPHHS, including the opportunity for a fair hearing before an impartial administrative law judge prior to the reduction or termination of services.
 

We want to hear from you.

If you have experienced any of these issues, please call us for information and assistance through the DPHHS administrative appeal system.
 

 

UPDATE: Pine Hills Investigation

In September, DRM issued an investigative report called Solitary Confinement at Pine Hills detailing the use of solitary confinement at Montana’s Youth Correctional Facility in Miles City for indefinite periods of time as disciplinary consequences.  Pine Hills denied the broad allegation based on policy and program changes made in mid-August, 2018, but failed to address its use of solitary prior to that time, and many other specifics contained in the report.

For instance, Pine Hills did not address its "Security Classification" policy that provides for restriction to the "housing unit area" for indefinite periods of time in response to certain behaviors.  (PHYCF 4.2.1.001).  Pine Hills also has a Resident Handbook which stated that confinement is used for disciplinary consequences.  Pine Hills did not address its policy violation of placing youth in solitary “restricted status” for pending criminal charges when they were being investigated for allegations of criminal conduct.  Moreover, the Pine Hills Resident Handbook states: “If on confinement, do not communicate with other youth.”  Pine Hills has not indicated that any changes to this this handbook are in the offing.  Pine Hills also did not respond to evidence that youth on restricted status were not allowed to attend school, and were receiving failing grades as a result. 

In addition, perhaps of even greater significance, the report raised issues of concern surrounding violence and safety of youth at Pine Hills.  The report alleges that “there is a subculture of violence that permeates the environment,” and that “[s]ome staff appear unwilling or unable to intervene into or change it.”  Pine Hills did not respond to this allegation, and has done nothing (publicly) to change this dangerous environment.

Finally, the report alleged that the Department of Corrections has a conflict of interest in utilizing in-house investigators to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by youth that result in criminal charges against the youth where staff are witnesses against the youth.  This is so because this system fails to account for the appearance of impropriety arising from circumstances where the facility is negligent in its treatment of programming, or staff may be negligent in their supervision or delivery of services, programming or treatment to youth.  Pine Hills did not respond to these allegations, and has made no changes to its approach to investigating these types of incidents. 

 

Protection & Advocacy Service Training

We are more than happy to provide training and workshops to others. We welcome nonprofits, clients, workplaces, and more, to reach out to us if you would like for us to present about our services, and how we can provide assistance.

Call 406-449-2344 or email
Advocate@DisabilityRightsMT.org

"Advocating for justice is our individual and collective responsibility."

Executive Director,
Disability Rights Montana
Bernie Franks-Ongoy
406-499-2344

Advocate@DisabilityRightsMT.org

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Disability Rights Montana protects and advocates for the human, legal, and civil rights of Montanans with disabilities while advancing dignity, equality, and self-determination

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