Missoula County Health Department Director Ellen Leahy is in back-to-back meetings discussing the impacts of immediate and possible budget cuts from the State of Montana.

There has been no word yet from Governor Steve Bullock or leaders in the state legislature as to whether a special session will be called to address the $227 million budget shortfall from the last session. Leahy outlined the cuts in services that her department has, and potentially might have to absorb.

"On one front, we have a very looming cut to an entire program that will be determined by the outcome if the legislature does convene, or by the governor," Leahy said. "We also had a smaller program that was on the chopping block, but we found out last week that the funds are being cut as we speak. That is our Foster Child Health Program, and it's a partnership where we work with Child and Family Services, Providence St. Patrick Hospital, and here with our public health nurses."

Leahy is also waiting for word on funding on another much larger program.

"Our larger program is just basic public health nursing that's been around for well over 100 years," she said. "We do get funding from Medicaid for their clients, such as pregnant women, young mothers and young children. and all the money that we receive for them, which in Missoula a $250,000 is also on the chopping block. With the $65,000 we've already lost for the Foster Child Program, this health department is looking at a worst-case scenario of $315,000, and that's a huge chunk of the piece that we need to serve people in our community."

Leahy said there is no way her department can absorb a loss of that magnitude.

"We're lobbying very hard to find a way to keep that funding, but there is so much uncertainty right now," she said.



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