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Best Practices in Community Services for People Who Have Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities

Below is a video of a converation with Allan Bergman with a positive view of the national movement to close institutions, as it has led to the creation of systems that help people live fuller and more positive lives than they had in institutional settings.

This video is a follow-up to the first in the bipartisan public education series "Best Practices in Community Services for People who have Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities" which was held on March 23, 2016, at the Montana Capitol. The bipartisan public education series was developed by Senator Ed Buttrey and Senator Mary Caferroto to help build understanding of critical issues impacting community services in Montana.

The guest speaker was Allan I. Bergman, a leading national expert on community programming and public policy related to persons with disabilities. 

Allan, President and CEO of HIGH IMPACT Mission-based Consulting & Training, is a nationally recognized leader in influencing the development of federal and state policy reflecting “best practice” community integrated supports and services, including effective Medicaid policy and practices, for persons with disabilities and their families.  During his career, Allan has engaged with and trained over 65,000 people working with over 370 organizations and government agencies in 45 states as well as internationally.

Legislators, MDC Transition Committee members, providers, and the public were invited by Senator Buttrey and Senator Caferro for this rare opportunity to tap into the expertise of Allan to utilize his decades of experience assisting with developing community living infrastructure for people who have disabilities. Allan highlighted pressing issues such as community provider transformation, community integration, ADA compliance, integrated community supports, and Olmstead plan requirements. 

Doing the Right Thing for People with Disabilities and the City of Boulder

On May 6, 2015, Governor Bullock signed SB 411 into law. SB 411 directed the Department of Public Health and Human Services to close the Montana Developmental Center by July 2017. The bill created a committee to advise DPHHS on how best to close MDC and to minimize the impact to the city of Boulder and the work force. Specifically the committee is charged to:

a) design and recommend a plan to close the Montana Developmental Center and transition residents into community-based services;

(b) propose a rate structure for providers of community-based services;

(c) identify potential sources of funding to support the proposed rate structure;

(d) recommend community-based services necessary to allow for the closure of the Montana Developmental Center; 

(e) identify potential options for repurposing of the Montana Developmental Center campus;

(f) recommend workforce planning and transition options for the Montana Developmental Center workforce; and

(g) recommend secure facilities necessary to allow for the closure of the Montana Developmental Center.

In signing the bill, Governor Bullock knew the work was not going to be easy. He knew it could be done if people of goodwill work together to accomplish the goals of SB 411 which are to protect the rights of people with disabilities to live in community settings and to minimize the impact to the city of Boulder and the work force.

Civil rights for people with disabilities and the survival of a community are not mutually exclusive.

The MDC transition committee has met eight times and is not close to accomplishing the goals of the bill. Instead, the committee has spent most of its time debating the merits of the bill.

The only way people with diverse perspectives can reach common ground is to truly listen, have honest dialogue, and respect each other's positions, concerns, and fears. Bulling, vilifying, and fear-mongering do not inspire cooperation and understanding. Instead, all of the members on the committee are digging their heels deeper in their respective positions.

We must find a way to alter the trajectory of the transition committee or we will miss the opportunity to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities. The committee only has eight months left to do its work.

Doing the right thing for people with disabilities and for the people of Boulder is compatible with meeting the objective of closing the institution. If we start the conversation with that premise, we will craft a solution that honors the will of the legislature in the passing of SB 411, uphold the civil rights of people with disabilities, and respects the people who live and work in the city of Boulder.

As the Executive Director of Disability Rights Montana, I will own my part of the discourse but I will not apologize for defending the rights of people with disabilities to live integrated lives.

Boulder is a lovely town with wonderful people. The people are scared about the future, their livelihood, and their town. That is a real, understandable fear.

The residents of MDC are people with disabilities whose civil rights need to be protected. That is a reality, and requires the closure of MDC.

Many states have closed institutions for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. We should learn from those states; invite those leaders to share their experience with us on what worked and what didn't. We should consider other purposes for the MDC campus. There are viable facility uses that can replace MDC.

If we all put our boxing gloves away and bring out olive branches, we may be able to start again and work together to bring about the changes required by SB 411 with little or no negative impact. I believe in the core of my being that we can do the right thing for people with disabilities and for the people and city of Boulder without compromising the civil rights of people with disabilities and without negative impact to Boulder.

DRM hereby extends an olive branch to all parties involved.

Bernadette Franks-Ongoy
Executive Director

Win a one day professionally guided rafting or fishing trip for two on the Blackfoot or Missouri River in beautiful Montana

Missouri River in MontanaThis trip, valued at $500, includes a licensed, insured, professional guide, boat and shuttle service, fishing instruction, terminal tackle such as flies, leaders & tippet, and lunch, all donated by God's Country Outfitters of Lincoln, Montana.

Raffle tickets are one ticket for $20 or three tickets for $50. ONLY 300 TICKETS ARE BEING SOLD! For ticket information, please contact Disability Rights Montana at 406.449.2344 or 800.245.4743.

Drawing will be held June 14, 2016.

Please support Disability Rights Montana and its work to protect the rights of Montanans with disabilities by purchasing raffle tickets.

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.


Press Releasse - April 20, 2016

Disability Rights Montana and the ACLU of Montana called on the Montana Department of Corrections and the Montana State Prison to immediately end their practice of placing prisoners with serious mental illness in solitary confinement after the National Commission on Correctional Health Care last week issued a position statement forcefully condemning the practice.

Click here to read the press release.

DRM Board of Directors Meeting

The DRM Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for Friday, April 29, 2016, from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., at the Disability Rights Office located at 1022 Chestnut Street, Helena, Montana. The public is welcome. If you wish to attend, please call our office at 406-449-2344 and let us know if you need an accommodation.

Transition Newsletter - March 2016

DRM will be publishing newsletters approximately every six weeks on Transition. The most recent edition was published March 30th.

Click here to read the March 2016 edition.

The January 2016 edition can be found under the Resource Tab under Transition Newsletters.

MDC Reports

The Department of Justice released its 2015 statistics regarding abuse and neglect at the Montana Developmental Center. Additionally, DRM has obtained the MDC staff injury data for 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Click links below for the information.

MDC Staff Injury Report 2014 - 2015.

DOJ 2015 (revised) Total Data.

DOJ 2015 Monthly Report

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 McCarthey 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....