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Legislative committee discussing childhood hunger, Medicaid

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Members of a legislative committee will hear on Monday about state programs and local efforts designed to provide food to children in need.

As part of their learning process, members will have lunch at Jefferson Elementary School in Helena to talk with school officials and students about what children eat for lunch during the school week.

The Children, Families, Health, and Human Services Interim Committee also will spend time during its Sept. 19 meeting on issues related to Medicaid and to the implementation of Senate Bill 423, which revised the state’s laws regarding the use of marijuana for certain medical conditions.

The committee is carrying out the childhood hunger study based on House Joint Resolution 8, which was approved by the 2011 Legislature. Next week’s meeting will focus on:

— the state-run programs that either provide food directly to individuals or provide financial assistance that can be used to buy food;

— programs operated by local groups that serve children of all ages and that fill in food gaps that may occur when children are not in school; and

— some of the reasons that children may be going hungry.

Committee members decided in June they also would like to focus on Medicaid issues and options during this interim. On Monday, Laura Tobler and Melissa Hansen of the National Conference of State Legislatures will discuss national trends and legislation that may affect Medicaid in the future. They also will outline innovations in other state Medicaid programs. Anna Whiting Sorrell, director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services, will discuss Montana’s Medicaid program.

Committee members also will hear from DPHHS about the agency’s implementation of SB 423, while Kate Cholewa of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association will offer a perspective on how changes in the law have affected patients and providers.

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