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Montana News

Montana Respite Program Receives $800,000 To Fund Special Needs Caregivers

Governor Steve Bullock speaking during the announcement of a $800,000 federal grant to fund respite services in Montana, Tuesday, October 23.  Respite helps provide a temporary break for family caregivers of children or adults with special needs.
Corin Cates-Carney
/
MTPR
Governor Steve Bullock speaking during the announcement of a $800,000 federal grant to fund respite services in Montana, Tuesday, October 23. Respite helps provide a temporary break for family caregivers of children or adults with special needs.

Montana is receiving an $800,000 federal grant to pay and train family caregivers of children and adults with special needs.

The three-year grant funds the Montana Lifespan Respite program, which gives vouchers that allow family caregivers to hire a professional who can give them a break.

During a press conference announcing the grant at the state capitol in Helena, Tuesday, Marni Rolston, shared her story about the respite program.

Rolston says it allows her and her husband to step away from some of the daily stresses that come with being the caregivers for their teenage daughter Ida. Ida has trouble sleeping, experiences developmental delays and has difficult behaviors, Rolston says.

“It kind of allows us to do things such as maybe go for a hike to an area that she wouldn't really want to go to, or go for a cross-country ski out in the woods. Time to replenish ourselves to be together.”

Montana has received grants similar to this since 2011 and was offered this latest funding by the federal Administration for Community Living, this spring.

According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, $200,000 of the grant will go to toward vouchers to cover respite services.

The rest will fund training for family caregivers, create a registry of trained caregivers, and increase outreach efforts of the program.

At Tuesday's press conference, Governor Steve Bullock said, “Every year more than 118,000 Montanans provide literally millions of hours of unpaid care to help older parents, spouses, adult children with disabilities and other loved ones to live independently in their homes and in their communities.”

Montana ranks 21st in the nation in day-to-day help services for people with long-term conditions, disabilities or frailty, according to a 2017 scorecard put out by AARP Foundation, The Commonwealth Fund and The Scan Foundation.

In the scorecard, Montana’s poorest ranking came in affordability and access to care. The state’s number 21 ranking is up from its position at 33rd, in 2011.

AARP Montana State Director Tim Summers says Montana is improving when it comes to providing care to these vulnerable populations.

“Every year we seem to make steady, steady progress, we’re in a good place. Is there a lot of work to be done? Absolutely."

Summers says concern over the state's ability to help provide senior and long-term care grew over the last two years during the state’s budgeting crisis. But he says the recent backfilling of parts of the budget is helping to ease those concerns and Tuesday’s $800,000 grant definitely helps.

Summers says AARP of Montana may ask lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session to put additional funding in services that help seniors stay and receive care in their homes.

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