Montana’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services is in crisis. Since March, 2017, no new services have been offered due to budget constraints. Clients with open cases are still receiving services, but new clients are put on a two-year waiting list in the hopes that when a category for which they are eligible for services opens up, they will be first to receive them. In the meantime, they must put their educational and vocational plans on hold. The National Federation of the Blind of Montana thinks this is unreasonable.
Efforts are already underway to roll back decades of hard-won and vital programs and services for blind Montanans. If Blind and Low Vision Services is consolidated into general disability services in the name of balancing the budget, this would effectively eliminate our ability to procure the targeted and specialized services we need in order to be successful in achieving our educational and vocational goals. Moreover, merging the blind and general disability programs violates Montana state law, which calls for stand-alone services for the blind. We cannot afford to lose the autonomy of our only service option within a one-size-fits-all service delivery system.
The National Federation of the Blind of Montana strongly urges Gov. Steve Bullock and our state legislators to hold a special session to find other ways to balance the budget that do no harm to the blind, elderly, and disabled, and to maintain and preserve the autonomy and the quality of services for the blind of Montana, so that we can continue to be contributing, tax-paying citizens of our state and nation, and live the lives we want.
Joy Breslauer, president,
of the Blind of Montana