Jean's passion for ending homelessness and improving the health of our community are strongly evident in the leadership roles she’s taken and how she champions these causes at the local, state and federal levels. Jean shows up ‘in the trenches,’ playing an active role in moving our work forward.

— Susan Hay Patrick, Founding Co-Chair, Reaching Home: Missoula's 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness; and Chair,  Let's Move! Missoula

 
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PUBLIC HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES

HEALTHY BABIES AND FAMILIES

As Missoula County Commissioner, Jean was instrumental developing Missoula City-County Health Department’s Nurse-Family Partnership. Women who are pregnant with their first child can enroll and receive regular visits from a registered nurse throughout the pregnancy until the baby is 2 years old. It’s a free program for eligible women. Jean is dedicated to building partnerships that help give our youngest Missoula County residents support and a strong network to help them succeed.

IMPROVING HEALTHCARE OUTCOMES FOR FOSTER CHILDREN

The number of children in foster care in Missoula County continues to increase. When the nurses from the City-County Health Department identified a problem with foster children not having a medical home, incomplete medical records and a care plan that no one had explained to the foster family, Jean strongly advocated for Missoula County to fund a pilot program to support these children and foster parents. Children in foster care are often exposed to many adverse childhood experiences that result in poor health or they may have a chronic disease like asthma. If the foster parent is not aware of a care plan, the child may end up in a health or mental health crisis.  The Foster Child program has made a measurable difference in these children’s health. This pilot project grew and has been supported by Western Montana Clinic and DPHHS but the state just cut $60,000 from the program. Jean is fighting for funding to be reinstated and is looking for more partners to keep this vital program running.

WORKING TOGETHER TO ADDRESS MENTAL HEALTH

Jean is passionate about finding ways to ensure individuals facing a mental health crisis are not lost in the cracks between various agencies.  Jean has worked together with fellow commissioners, mental health providers, the County Attorney’s office, judges, and community stakeholders in developing a Jail Diversion Master Plan to ensure residents dealing with mental health issues are getting the help they need rather than cycling through the justice system. These efforts have resulted in the creation of a Crisis Intervention Team to train professionals across multiple agencies to better respond to and support individuals facing a mental health crisis. Recognizing that jails spend two to three times more money on adults with mental illnesses that require intervention than those without those needs, Jean participated in the National Stepping Up program on behalf of Missoula County to identify best practices to mitigate the human toll and cost to taxpayers of this trend.

Agencies who provide services to clients with disabilities and/or mental health issues Missoula County are facing state and federal budget cuts and we don’t know the full impact of those cuts on families. Jean’s experience serving on the board of directors for the Missoula City County Board of Health, Western Montana Mental Health Center and the Child Development Center is crucial as we look for solutions to address this changing landscape. The City County Health Department and Partnership Health Center provide services but the County also partners with community organizations to provide services to citizens with mental illness, substance abuse issues and developmental delays. The cuts to provider rates have resulted in layoffs and a reduction in hours for families needing support. Jean’s experience in bringing people together has never been more needed than now.

ENDING HOMELESSNESS

In 2011, the Missoula County Commission joined Mayor Engen and the City in addressing the homeless issue. Jean represented the Commission in the two years of studying “Housing First,” a national program that successfully connects individuals and families experiencing homelessness to permanent housing. As part of the process, Jean participated in public meetings which guided the development of the a city-county plan, “Reaching Home, a 10 year Plan to End Homelessness.” Throughout the process, Jean learned a lot about our neighbors who are struggling to afford a place to live. Most are our neighbors - they are not just passing through or did not move here just to access services. They have jobs, they have kids, they have goals. They may have had their car break down or had an unexpected medical bill that took rent money. When families do not have a home to go to each night, their lives are stressed. Kids can’t concentrate at school. Parents struggle at work. They experience hunger. Jean is an advocate for the Housing First approach, which is a proven model to address homelessness and the spiral of needs that follow. Missoula is fortunate to have the new Poverello Center, but it is crisis housing not a permanent housing solution. Addressing homelessness in the county is a top priority for Jean and she looks forward to building upon the strong partnerships to advocate for those most in need in Missoula County.

Jean continues to work with partners in the community to address these issues and more.  The opioid epidemic, our suicide rate, domestic violence and our poverty rate are other issues that are being addressed. Jean has the background and experience in the health and human services field to make a difference.