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AWARE Ink Newsletter

Note from Our CEO - April 2022

Greetings from Anaconda,

I hope this note finds you and your loved ones happy and healthy. For me, springtime and the longer days bring new energy for everything I do, and I am optimistic about what the rest of the year will bring. This month also presents a time to pause and reflect on the first quarter of the year.

AWARE’s FACT team is up and running and surpassing goals. At the start of the project in January 2022, our plan was to have seven teams by the end of the first year and 10 by the end of the second year. I am happy to report that three months in, we already have seven teams in place, and we are actively working to build the remaining three teams. We knew there was a need for wraparound care for families in Montana, which is why we developed the FACT program. We are proud to provide this care and will continue working to grow our team to meet the demand for preventative and mental health services to youth and families in their homes and communities.

Last month, I mentioned that spring presents the opportunity to be outside and more active. Being active is good for both the mind and the body, and in my opinion, critical for the health of the people we serve and the people on our team. That said, AWARE’s leadership team is working on options to encourage and promote being active in a variety of ways. We will be working with the Cohesion Dance Project in Helena to bring dance and movement opportunities to the people we serve in the upcoming months. This is an exciting partnership that I hope brings happiness to many.

Speaking of happiness, April 27 is set to be the first-ever AWARE Day. This day of celebration is a direct result of a bill written by AWARE team member Adam Pehl. Adam proposed establishing a day to celebrate the amazing people we serve, our incredible team and to help bring attention to the work we do. Did you know that AWARE was established as an incorporation officially in April of 1976? That means we have been serving Montanans for 46 years – incredible. I am thankful to Adam and his Corporate Congress colleagues for making it a priority for us to take the time to celebrate. You can read more about AWARE Day and how you can participate in the celebration later in this issue of INK.

While we are excited to celebrate the incredible work our team is doing, I’d be remiss not to recognize that we are still working to overcome the workforce crisis facing behavioral health in Montana. Our talent acquisition team is working hard to recruit and hire dedicated people, so we can continue serving Montanans. We have seen a slight uptick in applications to AWARE. Recently, we were able to go back to full capacity at one youth mental health residential home in Missoula and one home in Great Falls. This news is encouraging, yet the fact remains that we and our clients need increased and adequate funding to develop and sustain the workforce necessary to meet the needs of Montana’s communities. A stable workforce means we can open the homes we have been forced to close.

A stable workforce means people with disabilities can receive services in Montana communities, free of hospitals and institutions, that help them live as independently as possible with dignity and respect. To help address the workforce crisis and to help with retention, we have aggressively increased wages for AWARE employees. It is now time for the state to invest in behavioral health and in the health of Montanans.

If you are reading this, we need your help. The next legislative session does not begin until January 2023, but the time for advocacy is now. Currently, the governor and his team are going through the executive planning process, which simply put, is the governor’s planning process for preparing his recommendations to the next legislature.

There is no time like the present for our leaders to hear from you. Click here to view our Annual Report, which highlights many of last year’s achievements.

Now is the time to share the impact AWARE has in Montana.

  • If you or a loved one has ever benefited from services AWARE provides, please consider sharing your story with your elected officials.

  • If you are a vendor partner, you see the impact AWARE has in your community – share it with your elected officials.

  • If you are an employee, you are making a difference every single day – make sure your elected officials know how important the work you do is.

  • If you are a donor, something along the way inspired you – make sure our leaders know why you support AWARE and why they should join you in investing in behavioral health.

“It takes a team” is one of our guiding principles. As we head into the next legislative session, we need you now more than ever. Your voice and your advocacy matters. You can make a difference for the future of behavioral health in Montana. I sincerely hope you will consider contacting your local elected officials, state legislators, Governor Gianforte, Representative Rosendale, Senator Daines and Senator Tester. Remind them of the importance of the work we do. Encourage them to invest in behavioral health.

Below you will find links to help you contact elected officials:

Thank you for being on the team. Together we help people live independent lives.

With much gratitude, Matt Bugni – CEO

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