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AWARE Ink Newsletter


Note from Our CEO

Welcome to November – also known as “National Gratitude Month.” Practicing gratitude every day is known to support a happier and healthier life – I hope you take the opportunity every day to find something to be grateful for. If not, I encourage you to intentionally make time to count your blessings and show gratitude throughout this month.

Speaking of gratitude, how lucky are we to have the opportunity to work with and help nearly 5,000 Montanans live independent lives each year? It is truly a blessing that these people trust us to be a part of their lives. We do not take this for granted. I believe our wraparound approach to care and our willingness to meet people where they are at is what makes us special.

Of course, helping so many people wouldn’t be possible without the incredible team of caregivers we have at AWARE. I am thankful to be surrounded by smart, caring, and compassionate individuals who dedicate their lives to helping others.

And finally, bringing our mission to life wouldn’t be possible without friends and supporters of AWARE. Thank you for your volunteer hours, advocacy, and support through donations. It takes a team, and our team is made better by all of you.

I am often asked “why” I do what I do. The answer isn’t short, but I will sum it up here. Like most of you, there are people very dear to me with disabilities that have been treated unfairly but have not had the resources or capacity to advocate for themselves. AWARE and the people associated with our organization advocate for people that have been disenfranchised and deliver services that allow these Montanans to lead lives with dignity, respect, and happiness. There is integrity, authenticity, and honor in AWARE’s mission. I am grateful that my life path led me to this opportunity to lead such an incredible organization.

With our focus on gratitude, I would like to thank Governor Gianforte and our Legislators once again for the work they did to help fund behavioral health in Montana. The rate increases that came from the 2023 Legislative Session are historic. Prior to this rate increase, behavioral health in Montana was on the brink of collapse after 15 years of average 1.1% provider rate increases, which is far below even the rate of inflation. While this recent funding increase is historic and gets providers like AWARE close to covering costs for care – keeping doors open and services available for now – we must continue to advocate for an investment in the future of behavioral health in Montana.

We have an opportunity with the Behavioral Health System for Future Generations Commission created by House Bill 872 of the 2023 Legislative Session. Your voices must be heard. This commission is tasked with providing recommendations to Governor Gianforte regarding the $300 million from HB872, which provides a generational investment to reform and improve Montana’s behavioral health and developmental disabilities service systems. I humbly ask you to make time to advocate for investments that lead to the greatest benefit for the health of Montanans and our communities – for investments in “upstream” services that help people with mental illness, substance use issues, or developmental disabilities to live as independently as possible, free from institutions.

The next commission meeting will be held over two days from noon to 5 p.m. on Thursday, November 30, and Friday, December 1 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Kalispell at the Flathead Valley Community College located at 777 Grandview Way. For remote access, a Zoom link will be made available closer to the meeting, along with an agenda. The focus of the meeting will be on the capacity of the developmental disabilities delivery system. For more information about the Commission and to sign up for updates, click on this link: Behavioral Health System for Future Generations Commission.

Members of the public are allowed to listen and participate in the meetings, virtually or in person. It takes a team, and our team needs you now.

If you would like to learn more about why I am so passionate about the need for advocacy, please feel free to contact me at

I invite you to continue reading this issue of INK that features highlights on AWARE’s training team, professional development opportunities, in addition to our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Implementation efforts, amongst other great content.

Thank you for taking the time to read this note and thank you for being on the AWARE team.

With sincere gratitude,

Matt Bugni – CEO

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