It’s still not clear just how much many non-profits and service providers throughout the state will be affected by state budget cuts. But for one Missoula non-profit, they have already been drastic and they look to only get worse.
“I think it would be pretty frightening to think that everything is going to end and I might have nowhere else to go,” said Opportunity Resources client Barclay Nickel.
For Nickel, the future is more uncertain than ever — and he’s been through a lot. Barclay lives with a variety of developmental disabilities but doesn’t let that stop him from being a productive member of the Missoula community.
“I am a janitor at the Missoula Smokejumpers Center, Nickel said. “I am also on the board of directors for opportunity resources. I am actually the board secretary.”
But he needed help to get here. About 10 years ago, Barclay got involved with Opportunity Resources, a non-profit that was founded over 60 years ago by a group of parents that were looking for services for their kids with disabilities.
Today, they serve about 800 adults with disabilities in the Missoula Valley and an additional 800 with case managers throughout Western Montana. Through Opportunity’s Extended Employment Program, clients like Barclay are able to find work and thrive.
But Opportunity Resources CEO Josh Kendrick says that could all soon change.
“The extended employment program, may run out of money by the end of the month, so what that would mean for us, and for them, is that they could be losing their supports in the community, and employers are going to be losing excellent employees throughout the community,” Kendrick said.
If the cuts come through — and are finalized — about 30 case managers could be out of work, including dozens of other clients who Opportunity Resources serves.
“That means individuals in those smaller communities are going to be on state case manager caseloads. What we’re being told is those caseloads will be at least 60 people. What they used to be is 30,” Kendrick said.
“So, it’ll be a large impact to those people because whether it’s a state case manager or private case manager, to have a caseload of 60, the service is going to different than it is today,” Kendrick added.
Different, for people like Barclay.
Even before these cuts — which could be happening as soon as April 1 — organizations like Opportunity Resources have already felt the pinch.
Direct support professionals who make home visits for things like meal prep are losing wages and hours, making it more difficult for them to fulfill their work. Vocational services have seen a 20% cut, and a program that works in schools to help kids find jobs in the community has lost 45% of their funding.
For Kendrick, who’s been with the organization for over 20 years, it’s uncharted territory.
“We’re seeing unprecedented times. I don’t think opportunity resources in the last 69 years has ever seen times like this. We are a strong organization, we will make it through this, but the sad part is, that adults with disabilities in the Missoula community across western Montana are going to feel the impacts,” Kendrick said.
Click here for information on how you can donate to Opportunity Resources.
Reporting by Don Fisher for MTN News