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Crissie McMullan, Mountain Home Montana

Crissie McMullan

In response to Gov. Steve Bullock’s request for state agencies to reduce their budgets by 10 percent, the Department of Public Health and Human Services is proposing two significant reductions in services to young families provided by Mountain Home Montana.

The first is the proposed elimination of Second Chance Homes, an annual grant program that houses young mothers and their children. The second is the proposed elimination of mental health case management services.

Mountain Home Montana has served more than 800 mothers and children since we opened our doors in 2000. Before these moms came to us, most were homeless — living in cars or beneath bridges or in unheated trailers. Mountain Home provides food, shelter and clothing, as well as 24/7 staffing to help them hone life and parenting skills. Case managers work with clients to find permanent housing, to increase income, to connect their children with quality daycare and healthcare providers. With our help, most moms get jobs and move into independent housing in less than a year.

Cutting these basic services will be detrimental to kids. When children are homeless and live in adverse conditions, their bodies and brains suffer. Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child estimates that without intervention, the children we serve have a 90-100 percent likelihood of having one or more delays in cognitive, language or emotional development.

Moreover, cutting services is actually worse for the state’s bottom line. If children are living in dangerous situations, it’s likely that Child Protective Services will become involved — at that point, courts and foster placements and other emergency services for children can cost hundreds of thousands for a single child before reaching adulthood.

Perpetuating the cycle, as many as one in three young women in foster care as teenagers will be pregnant by the time they are 18.

Mountain Home appreciates the state’s efforts to reach a balanced budget. However, we call upon decision makers, agency leaders and Governor Bullock to find solutions that are more humane and more fiscally responsible.

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Crissie McMullan is executive director of Mountain Home Montana in Missoula. 

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