GREAT FALLS – The Bullock administration is planning on slashing state funding for human services by $49 million to meet a budget shortfall caused by less-than-expected tax revenue.
Among those hoping for a change of heart by the governor are a Great Falls mother and her autistic son.
10-year old Hayden Stroh is a lot like most kids. He loves to read, he loves to draw, and he’s passionate about Pokemon.
Where Hayden differs from many kids is his standing on the Autism spectrum.
“He has a lot of emotional issues and ADHD, oppositional defiance disorder,” said his mother, Jessica Worrell.
Hayden has been working with Youth Dynamics since kindergarten. The program has made a remarkable difference.
“They help me with my emotions like anger and sadness,” said Hayden.
Before Youth Dynamics, Hayden struggled making friends. After several years in the program he’s like another person.
“He’s learning better behaviors,” said Jessica. “Instead of reacting and lashing out at people he’s learning to use his emotions like saying ‘I’m angry’ instead of just going up and hitting someone.”
Hayden turned his behavioral corner with the help of Greg Laskey, a Family Support Assistant, or FSA. Like many other agencies Youth Dynamics stands to lose funding as a result of cuts to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, potentially leaving Hayden and hundreds of other kids struggling.
“Currently we’re serving 1,200 youth in the state of Montana and throughout the year we typically serve 2,000,” said Megan Chandler, a Youth Dynamics Care Manager.
In addition to FSA services, Youth Dynamics provides case or care management, home supports services, therapeutic foster care and group homes. In all, 600 employees in 31 locations are hoping at least for business as usual.
“At this time, we have not laid off staff, cut services or closed our doors in any of our locations,” said Katie Gerten, the Public Relations Coordinator for Youth Dynamics. “We’re really searching for solutions on what to do really here so we can continue serving these families.”
The budget cuts were approved by the Republican controlled Montana Legislature last November.
Reporting by Tim McGonigal for MTN News