On January 31 the Office of Public Assistance (OPA) in our county was closed due to state budget cuts.  This is a great loss to the community as the staff provided a tremendous resource that not only assisted clients with health coverage and benefit applications, but also shared their knowledge with several community service providers in Carbon County. With the loss of not only our public service office, but 18 others throughout the state, those seeking help will be funneled to the offices in larger cities like Billings, creating a strenuous commute and long wait times before receiving the help they need.  The effects of this loss will put strain on the young families, elderly neighbors, and hard-working employees of our community.

This winter, the Foundation hosted a Community Dialogue to learn more about what will be missing with OPA’s closure and make plans moving forward to attempt to fill some of the gaps in service.  After much discussion, it was determined that an OPA closure subcommittee would be formed.

The subcommittee’s first goal is to train more volunteer Navigators to assist participants with completing resource applications.  Navigators are not experts and aren’t intended to replace OPA.  They receive basic training of the program applications and resources available and meet applicants in a public location to offer initial assistance.  Heidi Mann, a previous employee of OPA is on board to develop training for new Navigators. The Navigator program has been providing free assistance to the community for five years and now will be working even harder to fill this gap.

The upcoming Navigator training is scheduled in two parts:  part one is Thursday, March 15 from 6-8 pm, part two is Saturday, March 17 from 10 am to noon.  Both trainings are located at the Red Lodge Community Church.

If you are interested in learning more about receiving Navigator training, or if you need assistance from a Navigator, please contact Therese Picasso-Edwards at therese@rlacf.org or 446-2820.