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AWARE Ink Newsletter

Note From Our CEO

As I reflect on 2023, I am reminded how proud I am to lead this organization. Our dedicated team of caregivers and supporters ensure that we can bring our mission to life. Together, we help nearly 5,000 Montanans with mental health and/or developmental disabilities work towards their goals and living independent lives. So, with 2024 here, it isn’t “new year, new me” at AWARE. It is “new year, same AWARE.”

We will continue providing a wraparound approach to community-based behavioral health care. We will continue working as a team to help those who need us most. We will continue advocating for community-based behavioral health. We will continue sharing success stories. We will continue thinking outside the box to advance our system of care. 

And finally, AWARE’s Unconditional Care Principles will remain our driving force and inspire the service we provide to each person who comes to our care.  

While these principles are written specifically for AWARE and how we operate, they can be applied to your personal and professional lives. Please take a few minutes to read and think about what inspires you. 

1. Building on strengths is the key to success 

The best way to address challenge is to build upon strengths. AWARE’s strength-based services are individualized for each person and family to best meet their goals. We focus on people’s strengths by providing responsive, flexible and individualized care. We help individuals and families realize strengths by recognizing their unique interests, helping them improve their coping mechanisms and supporting them through difficult times. Our creative approach helps fulfill hopes and dreams. 

2. We take on—and stick with—the hardest challenges 

AWARE welcomes all to come and stay, especially those who may challenge us the most. We believe people are not defined by their problems; rather, we value them as individuals. We recognize that healing occurs when people feel accepted, supported and dignified. We don’t give up on individuals and families. We use all the resources we have available to support them in their time of need. 

3. We are agents of change 

Creating conditions that make change possible is our responsibility. As constant learners and teachers, we view each interaction as an opportunity for growth. We learn from the people we serve, our co-workers and others in the community. We teach new skills, support practice, provide therapeutic experiences, encourage competence and celebrate success. 

4. Everything is normal until proven otherwise 

We offer services for each individual in the least-restrictive and most normalized setting possible. We encourage those we serve to experience everyday life, just like friends, family and neighbors. We believe that focusing on success helps overcome aspects that aren’t working as well. We are willing to share the risk that sometimes comes with struggle. 

5. Families are our most important resource 

No one cares for or knows an individual better than his or her own family. Families are the major influence and primary support for the people we serve. We believe the family is the base on which individual strengths are built. Our job is to help families better recognize their strengths and values and use them for their benefit. We use families’ assets as part of any intervention or team process. 

6. I’m OK, you’re OK 

Each individual and family has a set of personal and cultural values. Whether these values are unique to the family or shared with a larger cultural group, they are important assets. We believe the diversity of personal and cultural values is a cause to celebrate. When we recognize individual differences, we help build on basic strengths. 

7. It takes a team 

We believe and support a team approach. The most important team members include the individuals we serve and their families. Each individual’s team also includes valuable community resources and AWARE staff. The team’s focus is on the strengths and skills of the individual and families. The individual and their families’ opinions regarding strengths and needs come first.  We realize that we may not always agree with one another, but we strive for team consensus in decision-making. 

8. Our connection with our communities is vital 

We understand that individuals and families are part of their communities and that their connection with them is vital. We rely on the support and strengths of these communities to help the people we serve reach their goals. We strive to be full partners with others in our community and include them in our team process. We will fulfill our role in helping our communities to coordinate and develop necessary services. 

9. We strive to the highest quality of care 

We value providing the best services possible and strive to use the most effective approaches. To do this, we look at what we do, listen to how people respond to intervention and adjust future support. Quality is also defined by the recipients of our service and those who interact with us. We do our best to be viewed as competent, responsive and trustworthy by the people we serve and the community. 

10. Lighten up and laugh 

Our work is responsible, serious in nature and requires tremendous commitment. However, it’s important to take the time to see the joy in life, laugh and have fun. We do this by helping the people we serve learn to better enjoy their own lives. We try to teach that life is meant to be enjoyed. Laughter with others and amongst ourselves always helps. 

These principles have guided the way we provide care in the past and they will continue to guide our efforts long into the future. They inspire our organization to be the best in everything we do while keeping us grounded in our work. 

In the spirit of our UCC Principles, we are proud to highlight AWARE’s youth and adult mental health residential programs in this issue of INK. I invite you to take time to learn more about our clients and staff. As always, the stories are inspiring! 


I am excited for 2024. With the best caregiving team in the state and a leadership team who is committed to innovative thinking and planning, I have no doubt in my mind that we will make a positive impact in the lives of Montanans. Thank you for joining us on the journey – it isn’t possible without you. 

Best wishes to you and yours for a happy and healthy year. 


Matt Bugni – CEO   

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