Ravalli County has become the first county in Montana to turn down a Title X Family Planning Grant. When Title X became law in 1970, it was designed to prevent unwanted pregnancies and provide counseling and preventive health services. However, a majority of commissioners in Ravalli today, September 20, decided that the Title X funds weren't worth their vote.

The move has surprised many who believe the Title X funds serve a vital role in providing healthcare to women and the poor. Commissioner Suzy Foss, who had voted for Title X funding in the past, but changed her vote recently, said that the benefits of Title X are greatly over exaggerated. Foss believes that the people in Ravalli will receive better healthcare without the funds.

"If we do not continue Title X, there is not one service that is not provided at many, many locations in our valley through the Marcus Daly Health Care Network," Foss said. "Our public health is essential, but when it comes to people's basic care, whether it's screenings or something else, ideally you get them into the hands of a healthcare professional that is a physician, who will become their continuity care person. Continuity of care is so essential and we don't get that with limited services available and no physicians on duty at these [Title X] facilities."

Foss explained that although she has heard horror stories from the past of people who wanted care but couldn't get it, that the modernization of the hospital has helped make Title X obsolete for Ravalli in the current era.

"No one. No one is ever turned away from those [Marcus Daly] clinics for any kind of health care," Foss said. "Regardless of finances, age, sex... doesn't matter. The same guidelines that are required by our Title X for accepting people in for the essential services that they're looking for is available and closer for people that are coming into Hamilton. We've got clinics up and down the valley through Marcus Daly."

Foss said that the reported numbers of people that will not receive care are misinformation spread by the Director of the Ravalli County Health Department.

But the issue has to do with more than just healthcare. For many of the commissioners, there is an element of fiscal responsibility being addressed with this vote.

"We are trying to help people and our government get off of the mentality that it should be the federal government's responsibility to get into our personal lives, especially our most intimate personal lives," Foss said.

Indeed, Montana is one of the states that receives more in tax money than it pays out, by nearly 50 cents on the dollar. Foss couched the refusal of the Title X grant in a deeper background of disappointment with the way the federal government has treated her county in the recent past.

"We know that the federal government is broke," Foss said. "In Ravallli County, we lost our Secure Rural Schools funding from $785,000 last year to $30,000 this year. We were not given our funds for 2012 until January of 2013 and then promptly asked to return 5 percent of that. With our Title X this year, we not only did not know what our funding would be, but we did not get any notice of it until the middle of September."

The grant was worth $50,000. Although one job is at stake with the loss of the grant, Foss said that the Title X employee will be worked into the payroll system at the county health department so that no jobs will need to be lost.

Suzy Foss: