Can Montana Elderly Care Survive the 2023 Legislature?

Montana has lost nearly a dozen nursing homes in 2022. The reality is that dozens more assisted living and long-term care facilities are hanging by a thread. They wait to see if our governor and the state legislature will take the critical steps needed to keep essential services available for the elderly in this vast state. Now is the time to make your voice heard on this vital issue.

While the governor says Montanans would prefer to age in their homes and no one would disagree, the reality is that a beloved father or uncle or husband who weighs more than 200 pounds is incontinent and becoming combative in his dementia, can be more than he 85-year-old, 100-pound spouse can handle. As facilities offering skilled nursing, medication management, physical therapy, balanced nutrition and 24-hour caregivers close their doors, families watch their loved ones being shipped hundreds of miles away, only to see this facility nearly close a few months later the time when her loved one is comfortable with staff and furniture.

This doesn’t have to happen. The governor and lawmakers must adjust their budget to implement the recommendations of the $2 million insurance rate study they commissioned last year. The governor’s budget doesn’t come close.

Additionally, the governor and legislature must turn to the money when it comes to funding home and community services that at this time do not even come close to meeting the needs of our elders. Many could get by with just a little help at home: balanced nutritional support, home care and case management to assist with chores, medications, adaptive structures and equipment to support independence.

In contrast, the state of Montana is sitting in a $2 billion surplus, and this week the Senate will pass a bill (SB 121) that would give Montanans who, like our governor, make over $1 million a year $6,000 a year and 50 Dollar grants annual tax cut on average for Montanans earning $43,000 to $67,000 per year. This kind of generosity for the rich could instead be used to fund the necessary budget support needed to support the generation that raised us, built our schools and roads, and taught us the difference between right and wrong to do so they can age gracefully loving in the communities that have supported them for so many years.

If you would like to help, you can contact your representative or senator, leave a message with the Capital Switchboard at 406-444-2511 and Gov. Greg Gianforte at 406-444-3111 and ask them to fully fund the services for the elderly , both long-term care and home and community-based services. Visit https://leg.mt.gov/session/have-your-say for more information on how to contact your elected officers.

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Margie MacDonald is a board member and lobbyist for Big Sky 55+, a non-profit organization for seniors. She represented Billings in the Montana House and Senate for 12 years from 2009 to 2020.

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