The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual Kids Count Survey this week, and Montana is showing steady improvement over previous years.

Jennifer Calder, Outreach and Communications Director for Montana Kids Count, said the report shows some optimistic trends for the state.

“There’s some bright spots this year,” said Calder. “One of which is the number and percentage of children living in poverty in Montana continues to improve. For example, in 2015 there were about 43,000 children living in poverty, and in 2016 that number dropped to 34,000, so about 15 percent of children in Montana are living in poverty. It’s also interesting to note that Montana gains from 2015 to 2016 are outpacing the national gains.”

Calder also emphasized the fact that thanks to Medicaid expansion, fewer Montana children are living without health insurance and access to healthcare.

“The number and percentage of Montana children without health insurance continues to go down,” she said. “Montana has struggled with this for years, for instance in 2010 that number was 12 percent and Montana was ranked at 45th, but when you look at 2016 that drops amazingly to only five percent, bringing us up to 33rd. We know that when children have health insurance they’re more likely to be healthy, more likely to see a doctor, more likely to do better in school and it just has a real ripple effect.”

Overall, Montana ranks 23rd in the Kids Count survey.