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Run Wild Missoula Agrees to Drop Discriminatory Rules - Resolves Complaint Filed by Local Athlete 

Image of Joe Stone

On January 22nd, a state hearing officer granted Run Wild Missoula’s request that judgment be entered against it in a discrimination complaint filed by local Missoula athlete Joe Stone. The order requires Run Wild Missoula to allow people with disabilities who use hand cycles or racing wheelchairs to participate in the Missoula Marathon and prohibits them from implementing discriminatory rules, including greatly limiting the speed of these athletes for almost the whole second half of the marathon and requiring that they yield to all other racers. It also must provide its board of directors and executive director at least two hours of training on the Montana Human Rights Act, with an emphasis in providing accommodations for people with disabilities. Finally it must pay Mr. Stone $13,000 for the damages caused to him through its discriminatory practices. 

“I’m very pleased that we have finally resolved this issue so people with disabilities can be full participants in all phases of the Missoula Marathon,” said Stone. “This is an incredible weight off my shoulders. This is all I ever wanted to accomplish when I first contacted Run Wild Missoula in 2012.” 

Stone began trying to work with staff at Run Wild Missoula three years ago after learning that the Missoula Marathon did not allow people who use racing wheelchairs or hand cycles in the full marathon. Stone experienced a spinal cord injury in 2010 and uses assistive technology to compete in triathlons, marathons, and other races across the U.S. 

“I never wanted to initiate legal action, but at a certain point I had to acknowledge the unfair way in which people with disabilities were being treated. I spent several years trying to educate, collaborate, and participate in what Run Wild Missoula calls ‘an inclusive race for all participants.’ I just could not sit by and have myself and others treated like second-class citizens. We are part of the community and we have the right to fully participate in our community like anyone else.”   

Through Stone's advocacy and public pressure, Run Wild Missoula belatedly agreed to allow racing wheelchairs and hand cycles in the full marathon in 2014, only a month prior to the race, but still imposed discriminatory rules on wheeled participants. Stone, represented by Disability Rights Montana, argued that those rules were discriminatory, and an investigator from the Montana Human Rights Bureau agreed in July 2015. The case was set for hearing in February 2016. 

“It is unfortunate that it took so much time and effort to be treated equally, but I am very pleased with the outcome,” Stone added. “Not only will disabled athletes be treated equally in the Missoula Marathon, but this case can now be used as a tool for other athletes across the country who are struggling with similar issues. Inclusive races and events across the country are the ultimate goal, and our case puts us all one push closer to that outcome for everyone.”

Click here for Press Release.

Disability Rights Montana License Plate now available

DRM License Plate Design

Disability Rights Montana's specialty license plate is now available. You can purchase the plate by visiting your county treasurer's office. A one-time administrative fee and production cost for the specialty plate will be collected along with the standard vehicle registration free and sponsor donation fee. 

$20 Donation to DRM
$10 Administration Cost
$10 Production Cost
$20 Renewal Donation

Please show your support with the DRM license plate! Your purchase of the plate includes a $20 tax-deductible donation to support DRM and its work to protect the rights of Montanans with disabilities.

Governor Steve Bullock signs SB 411 into Law

Montana Capitol BuildingOn Wednesday, May 6, 2015, Gov. Steve Bullock signed into law a bill that calls for the state to close the Montana Developmental Center in Boulder by 2017.

"Senate Bill 411 has inspired passionate and heartfelt debate on both sides of the issue. Proponents and opponents alike are genuinely motivated by the best interests of the current and future residents of the Montana Developmental Center (MDC). Indeed, even family members of the residents are divided on this bill. Like them, first and foremost, I am committed to ensuring that the population served at MDC has access to the safest and most effective treatment possible."

Steve Bullock, Governor

To view the Governor's Signing Statement Text, click here.

To view SB 411 as signed into law, click here. 

Billings Gazette Opinion: Better care for Montana's disabled residents

"The state of Montana has taken on an urgent mission to do better by our most severely disabled residents.

'Bullock signs bill to close Montana Developmental Center in Boulder,' a Gazette headline said last week. The bigger story is the state accepting responsibility to create better services for each of the 53 men and women - all seriously developmentally disabled and some with mental illnesses as well - now housed at this institution in a small community in Western Montana."

The opinion goes on to read:

"As seriously disabled adults are transitioned to new community services, new jobs will [be] created. They should be created closer to clients' families. New services should take advantage of other community strengths, such as a sufficient labor pool, availability of physical, speech, psychiatric and occupational therapists, nurses and physicians, as well as opportunities to interact positively with family, friends and neighbors."

"We agree with Caffero, who said Bullock put 'people ahead of politics.'"

Billings Gazette Opinion May 11, 2015

Click here to read the Opinion in its entirety.

Solitary Confinement in the Montana State Prison

Mountain Outlaw magazine released its Winter 2015-2016 edition. John S. Adams, an award-winning investigative journalist, explores the use of solitary confinement in the Montana State Prison.  DRM Executive Director, Bernadette Franks-Ongoy, and DRM advocate, Charlie were interviewed for the story. Click here to read the magazine online.

The solitary confinement article begins on page 39.

The ADA at 25

The Americans with Disabilities Act is 25 years old. Where do we go from here? Is the ADA under threat? Find out in NDRN's latest report: The Americans with Disability Act at 25: Cause for Celebration and Renewed Resolve.

In the 25 years since the historic enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there has been an increase in the number of people with disabilities participating in all aspects of community life, from home ownership and employment, to sports and the arts. But where to we go from here? 

In the report, NDRN reviews the progress our nation has made since the historic enactment of the ADA in 1990. It highlights the critical role that P&As have in enforcing the ADA integration mandate, protecting and advocating for people with disabilities still trapped in institutions and ensuring those now living in their community of choice are able to access the supports and services they need to be successful. The report calls attention to disturbing national trends that threaten to distort and weaken the promise of full community integration. Please click here to read the entire report.


DRM Files Lawsuit Over Conditions at Montana State Prison
Lack of treatment, solitary confinement and abusive “behavior modification plans” exacerbate mental illness, threaten health and safety of prisoners, prison staff and Montana Communities.

On February 28, 2014, the ACLU of Montana, on behalf of its client Disability Rights Montana, challenged the treatment of prisoners with mental illness at Montana State Prison and the Montana State Hospital. A pattern at Montana State Prison of withholding medication, misdiagnosing prisoners with a long history of mental illness, and punishing them for behavior caused by their mental illness. They are subjected to solitary confinement and “behavior modification plans” that deprive them of clothing, working toilets, bedding and proper food. This serves only More....

DRM Releases Updated Rights Manual

This mental health rights handbook is for persons who use public or private mental health services or experience mental health problems while in the State of Montana.  This handbook will provide you with information about your rights and make you aware of what action you can take if you think your rights may have been violated. Most people with mental illness have the same civil rights as anyone else — civil rights do not disappear because you are receiving mental health treatment. We recommend that you read this handbook now, even if you don’t need to use it at the moment.

It is important to remember that the first step in protecting your rights is to educate yourself about these rights. The second step is to be willing to More....

Per Person - The Most Expensive Facility in the State

On February 6, 2015, DRM released an opinion regarding the Montana Developmental Center as the most expensive facility in the state.

In 2013 and 2014, Montana Developmental Center (MDC) had an average of 50 residents in its facility. Every day for the past two years on average, 24 of the 50 residents have been determined eligible for and referred to the community for services. In other words, everyday 24 residents are ready and waiting to move into community services. Many of the 24 have been waiting two years. See Exhibits 1 and 2 attached to the link to the complete article below. 

The waiting cost is $849 per day or $310,074 per year, per person. Per person, MDC is the most expensive facility operated in the state of Montana wi More....