Feb 2016

AWARE honored with Employer of Choice award

AWARE Inc. was named Employer of Choice by the Missoula Job Service Employee’s Council, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.

AWARE was nominated for JSEC’s large business category for “Building and supporting our community with innovative workforce solutions, creativity and vision.”

JSEC held a luncheon at the Holiday Inn Parkside in Missoula, Mont., where they announced the three recipients of the “Employer of Choice” award.

Jeff Folsom, AWARE chief operating officer, was invited to speak about AWARE and it’s growth during the last 40 years of service. He also highlighted the amazing benefits offered to AWARE employees.

Winners of this yearly award send in an application to be nominated by JSEC.

Additional award recipients both located in Missoula include:

Collection Bureau Services, small business category
Missoula Federal Credit Union, medium business category

For more on this award, read this article published in the Missoulian.


Feb 2016

AWARE Inc receives grant to help reduce suicide rate in Montana

AWARE CEO Larry Noonan and AWARE Medical Director Dr. Thomas Hoffman accepted a grant from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation to assist AWARE’s initiative, Moving Discussion to Action: The Time Is Now, to reduce the suicide rate in Montana.

The grant will assist AWARE’s collaborative efforts with the Montana Suicide Review Panel and other stakeholders in developing and implanting specific strategies to reduce the rate of suicide in Montana. Montana has the highest rate of suicide per capita in the United States.

The announcement was well received by the attendee’s at AWARE’s seventh annual Big Sky Psychiatry Conference held January 28 and 29 in Big Sky, Mont. Adjunct to the conference, AWARE hosted the Montana Suicide Review panel that discussed its findings and begin the process of charting a statewide response and action plan. More than 50 professionals and industry experts from across the state participated in the panel discussions.

Assisting in the panel discussions and providing training at the Big Sky Psychiatry Conference was Dr. David Brent, a leading expert in suicide prevention. Dr. Brent is professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine where he holds an endowed chair in suicide studies.

For more information about the grant, please contact AWARE COO Jeff Folsom at 406.449.3120 jfolsom@aware-inc.org.


Feb 2016

New way for people who were once in an institution

by Larry Noonan

More than 42-years-ago, I graduated from Eastern Montana College (now MSUB) in Billings, Mont., and embarked on a rewarding and challenging career working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Like many of my colleagues in Montana, my first work experience in this profession was at the institution, Boulder River School and Hospital, now called the Montana Developmental Center (MDC) in Boulder, Mont.

During this time in my career, many great things were happening at institutions like MDC that allowed people with disabilities to participate in normal life events. They were creating in-house employment opportunities like janitorial work and paper shredding to teach these individuals useful skills for the future. Community providers were also being formed to recreate many of the same services offered in an institutional setting but with the philosophy of full community inclusion. People with disabilities were finally being seen as productive members of society. The successes that I witnessed at Boulder and by community providers motivated me to dedicate my life’s work to finding ways to help people with disabilities find a better life. I developed a personal motto from this, “Forget can’t and don’t, think can and do.”

Apply for the Program Director position here.

I was certainly not alone in envisioning a more enlightened approach to serving people with special needs. Our state has been blessed with many thoughtful caring citizens, elected officials, departmental employees and nonprofit service providers. These people, in concert with the families of the folks that we serve, have almost completely changed the landscape of our profession. The majority of people with intellectual and developmental challenges now live and work and learn and play in community-based environments across Montana.

May 16, 2015, the Montana Legislature passed legislation that enables the careful and thoughtful closure of MDC and the transition of most residents who were in the institution to community-based facilities. This move represents the letting go of the last vestiges of the institutionalization of citizens with special needs that dominated the first 100 years of our profession.

Implementation of the spirit and the letter of this courageous legislation will be challenging. It is going to require even more courage, and even greater levels of cooperation and innovation among all parties involved. I am pleased to say that Governor Bullock and his staff recognize the urgency as well the attention to detail and commitment to innovation that will be required to make this move a success. Most importantly, they are absolutely committed to the well-being of the people that matter most – the residents of MDC and their families. These individuals will no longer be constrained to an institution. They will have rights allowing them to participate fully in community life. This is something that many of them have never had the privilege of experiencing. So, as we move forward join me in saying, “Forget can’t and don’t, think can and do!”

Are you up to the challenge?

If you feel as strongly as I do about the future potential for people with disabilities in a community setting, I encourage you to give us a call or click the link below to learn more. We are interested in joining forces with like-minded, passionate people who believe that people with disabilities should be included in the community because they are capable of anything with the proper tools and resources.

Apply for the Program Director position here.