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Uncovering America's methamphetamine history; PA Early Intervention programs vital for child development; measuring long-term impact of the O.J. Simpson trial on media literacy.

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President Biden's name could be left off the ballot in Alabama and Ohio, the Justice Dept. mandates background checks for gun show purchases, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds moves to allow state police to arrest undocumented migrants.

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Housing advocates fear rural low-income folks who live in aging USDA housing could be forced out, small towns are eligible for grants to enhance civic participation, and North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues.

Rural Montanans with Disabilities Face Challenges from Home to Hospital

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020   

HELENA, Mont. -- Montanans with disabilities face multiple barriers to care in the coronavirus pandemic, and those issues are compounded in rural parts of the state.

Fewer than a quarter of Montana counties have Intensive Care Unit beds. Lillie Grieman, project director for the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities, said that means having to travel long distances in an emergency.

For example, in Toole County, hit hard by the coronavirus, the closest ICU beds are in Great Falls, about 85 miles away.

"Not only do you have to travel far to get to beds," Grieman said, "You're going to a place where there are more people, where there is also an outbreak, and those beds may also still be in high demand. So, that's what I find particularly disconcerting."

Greiman noted that rural communities also have higher rates of people with disabilities, about 18% compared with 12% in metro areas, and the average age also skews higher in rural areas.

Montana is reporting 437 cases and a dozen deaths from COVID-19.

Disability-rights groups have raised concerns that once a person with disabilities gets to the hospital, they could be last in line if resources are scarce. Some of the crisis-care plans in states across the country ration care at their expense.

Travis Hoffman, advocacy coordinator for Summit Independent Living in Missoula, participated in a state work group on rationing care in a doomsday scenario as the virus began to spread. He said the group discussed making medical decisions based on science rather than perceived quality of life.

"Ensuring that decisions about everybody -- not just people with disabilities -- are based off of actual science and concrete medical principles," Hoffman explained, "and that if need be, people with disabilities would be granted reasonable accommodations to receive the care that they need."

The Department of Public Health and Human Services didn't respond by deadline to a request for comment on what rationing plans look like in Montana.


Disclosure: Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities contributes to our fund for reporting on Disabilities, Health Issues, Rural/Farming, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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