Asbestos Agencies in Montana Need State Funds for Survival

Without support from the state of Montana, the many asbestos agencies in Lincoln County will not be able to last through 2009. On December 23, 2008, the Community Advisory Group (CAG) sent a written request that $3.25 million be included in the state’s biennium budget. This money would be used to continue to provide funding for the Libby Asbestos Medical Plan (LAMP) started from an initial $2.75-million asbestos lawsuit settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Shortly after the settlement, in 2007, a final $1.5 million additional was signed into the budget by Governor Schweitzer. The additional 2007 funding helped to boost the funding for both the LAMP and agencies that supplemented health care for asbestos victims who met holes in the W.R. Grace medical plan coverage.

These agencies, Asbestos-Related Diseases Network (ARD-Net) agencies, have helped many to afford medical supplies and procedures to which they would not have otherwise had access: oxygen, lung surgery, lung drainage, and all pain medication. The cost to the LAMP and ARD-net agencies is taking its toll. According to Tanis Hernandez, outreach coordinator with the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD), the funds will dry up for ARD-net by June 2009 and sometime during 2009 for LAMP. Without these programs asbestos victims could find themselves without proper medical care. One solution has been posed by CAG member D.C. Orr. That would be to declare Libby, Montana, to be in a state of public health emergency. This would create a prompt reaction from the government to fix the problem. Lincoln County representative Chas Vincent urged his constituents to contact the Montana state governor concerning the issue. He plans to work with the other representative from Lincoln County, Jerry Bennett, to introduce a bill that would request line item funding for the county’s asbestos health care. Governor Schweitzer’s office can be contacted at the mt.gov website.