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State Health Department Awards $3 Million Developmental Disability Contract

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services

The Montana health department is offering an Anaconda based nonprofit a contract worth nearly $3 million to take over case management services for people with developmental disabilities.

This is the latest step in restructuring how the health department provides care for people with developmental disabilities in the wake of a state budget crisis.

Montana lawmakers and Governor Steve Bullock agreed to cut $49 million from the health department’s budget last November.

AWARE Inc. of Anaconda won the one-year contract that will start June first. It comes with a monthly caseload of 2,572 people.

Pat Noonan is AWARE’s public policy officer for AWARE.

“We believe that we’re a good option for a lot of those folks and we know that we have a track record of really providing good service, so we’re pretty confident that we’ll be able to fill in the gaps,” Noonan says.

Case managers help encourage independent living, and assist people with medical troubles, education needs and navigating social hoops.

Until last year’s budget cuts, AWARE was one of four non-profit companies the state contracted with to provided Medicaid funded case management services for people with developmental disabilities.

When the health department in December said it intended to eliminate all those contracts and take on all case management responsibilities, though there was backlash from some lawmakers and members of the industry. The department then changed course and requested applications for a single contractor to take over the work.

The value of the new single contract is 60 percent of what the four previous providers got for similar work.

Pat Noonan is the public policy officer for AWARE.
Credit Montana Legislature
Pat Noonan is the public policy officer for AWARE.

AWARE’s Pat Noonan says that means case managers will have to take on larger caseloads of around 60 clients per case manager, versus around 35 clients under previous contracts. 

When the state was considering taking on higher caseloads earlier in the year, people in the provider industry said 60 clients per case manager was about double what most would consider manageable.

Noonan says elements of the new contract have been changed to ease some case manager administrative duties. But, he says, services will be diminished.

“It won’t be quite as robust a service as it was before, and that is what’s in the contract and it’s what the state had planned to do when they took it over, was not provide quite a robust array of what people can do and be reimbursed for.”

Noonan says AWARE will have to hire up to 40 people to meet its new contract obligations.

A health department spokesperson says the contract was signed last Friday. It expects to save just under a million dollars by using AWARE as a contractor instead its previous plan to bring all case management work in-house.

A spokesperson for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services says AWARE’s one-year contract can be extended on one year terms for a total of five years.

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