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The Least Restrictive Approaches to Supporting Individuals as Decision Makers

fact sheet thumbnailThe Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities is pleased to share a fact sheet on alternative approaches to guardianship.

The Rural Institute has worked on issues surrounding guardianship for many years. In the late 2000s, Rural Institute staff members Marsha Katz and Ellen Condon, and Theresa Baldry, who was working for PLUK (Parents, Let’s Unite for Kids) at the time, collaborated with various community partners and created tools and resources focused on alternatives to guardianship.

Ms. Baldry, who now works at the Rural Institute as a Project Coordinator for Transition and Employment Projects and the Montana Deaf-Blind project, stated:

Read more about RIIC Fact Sheet

2019 Community Investment Fund Recipient

In 2015, the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities (RIIC) established the Community Investment Fund (CIF). CIF awards support innovative projects or programs that help Montanans with disabilities live, learn, work and play alongside people without disabilities. Consumer Advisory Council (CAC) members use their leadership and advocacy skills to review each application, evaluate the merits of each proposal, and award the funds.

mILpThe 2019 CIF award goes to the Montana Independent Living Project (mILp) for their Feel Great and Recreate – All-Ability Adaptive Ice Skating project. The all-ages program will offer people in the Helena area adaptive, inclusive, cross-disability programming. This is especially important during the winter months, when it can be difficult for people with disabilities to recreate with others in their community.

mILp’s goal is for individuals with and without disabilities to have fun ice skating. According to their CIF application:

“This could include a public skate, a birthday party, a recreational hockey program, or a competitive sled-hockey team. We are also targeting parents and family members of children with disabilities looking for a fun family adventure. We envision a family with a child who is unable to stand and skate to be able to join their family on the ice instead of having to watch from the sideline. The purpose is to give people with a disability an opportunity to get out of their homes and join their neighbors in an inclusive environment as they build confidence, develop new skills, learn to work as a team, exercise and socialize.”

The Rural Institute and CAC thank all 2019 CIF applicants, and send congratulations to the 2019 recipient!

“I wish people knew that even though we have disabilities, we can prevail”

2018 MYTransitions/MAR Conference

Annual Montana Youth Transitions and Association of Rehabilitation Conference provides event for RIIC staff to support needs of youth with disabilities in Montana.

Several RIIC staff presented at the Montana Youth Transitions/Montana Association of Rehabilitation Conference in Great Falls, November 14 – 16.  The conference is geared towards youth with disabilities, families, educators, service providers and counselors to connect, collaborate, and learn more about transition planning.

A variety of workshops were offered including, but limited to, the areas of creative employment opportunities, self-advocacy, identifying and developing transition resources, assistive technology, and teaching and developing work readiness and quality IEPs.

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Movin’ On in Montana: Pre-employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS)

MovinON th

Authors: Martin E. Blair, PhD and Kaitlyn P. Ahlers, PhD Candidate

Movin’ On in Montana was a post-secondary education campus-based experience for Pre-ETS-eligible youth. Beginning in 2015, several state and federal funding sources, including funding from the required 15% Pre-ETS set-aside, supported a four-day, three-night on-campus experience for high school students. The overarching purpose was to introduce high school students with disabilities to the college experience and to help students recognize that college (e.g., university or technical college) is a possibility if they choose to pursue postsecondary education.

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Bring precision medicine to every American

all of us logo

All of US research project wants to bring precision medicine to every American. But what is precision medicine? Precision medicine is a revolutionary approach to treating and preventing disease that is personalized instead of a one size fits all approach.

By gathering data from 1 million people, our country’s best researchers will be able to develop treatments that are as complex and unique as we are. Not all people are the same. Yet when we visit the doctor all treatments look the same. Why is that? We just don’t have enough information to do it better, until now. Click on the following link for more information on precision medicine and how to enroll in the All of Us research project.

Join All of Us button

Tom Seekins’ Life Time Achievement Award Speech

RTC:Rural co-director Dr. Tom Seekins was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Public Health Association at their October 2017 meeting. He was unable to accept the award in person, but recorded this acceptance speech.

Montana Gerontology Society Scholarship

The Montana Gerontology Society (MGS) is sponsoring a $1,000 scholarship for a Montana student who is pursuing a career in the field of aging.
The scholarship will be awarded at the annual conference, which will be held April 14-15, 2016, in Billings, Montana. A one-year membership in the Montana Gerontology Society and a waiver of the registration fee for the annual conference will be included with this award.

Application deadline: February 12, 2016

RTC: Rural - Access Partners-Get the Conversation Started

Teacher with spinal cord injury giving a lecture to students in classroomAccess Partners at the University of Montana “is an alliance to promote a campus environment that goes above and beyond disability compliance. It also promotes an inclusive campus community that welcomes all individuals and brings together faculty, staff and students to create a more positive and innovative UM experience for all people.” During the new group’s first meeting, accessibility leaders at UM provided information on resources, trainings and technical assistance offered by various departments.  For example, UM’s IT department, offers a series of trainings on the creation of accessible documents.  These trainings are free and designed to easily fit into faculty and staff schedules.

Continue reading about Access Partners on the RTC: Rural website.

2015 Montana Youth in Transition conference

Puzzle Pieces MathaliaIn early November, thirteen Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities Consumer Advisory Council (CAC) members from Helena, Polson, Missoula, Miles City, Corvallis and Elliston traveled to Great Falls for the 2015 Montana Youth in Transition conference.

Young adult and parent CAC members presented two workshops (“Puzzle Pieces: Putting Together the Pieces of Adult Life” and “SMART Surfing: Tips for Staying Safe on the Internet”); co-presented with representatives from various agencies at five additional workshops; hosted an information and resource table at the Youth Vendor Fair; recruited CAC members from underrepresented areas of the state; and nominated Emerging Leaders to share their stories of inclusive employment, education, housing, and/or recreation with other Montanans.

Continue reading Montana Youth in Transition Conference

2015 AUCD Annual Conference Presentation #2

School Climate Transformation: Using a PBIS Model in Indian Country

Rural Institute AUCD poster school climate website
Goal: To fully implement a culturally-grounded and culturally-appropriate Montana Behavioral Initiative (MBI) in schools that serve Montana is home to seven reservations and 12 sovereign Native American nations. primarily tribal areas.

View School Climate Transformation Poster PDF | Word

2015 AUCD Annual Conference Presentation

Autism in Rural Areas: Lessons we have learned in Montana

Rural Institute MTAutism AUCD poster

  • Social media and Facebook are a great way to share information and build community. Texting has not been as beneficial. 
  • Churches, bowling alleys and bars are good points of contact in rural and remote areas.
  • Indian Health Service provides an effective connection to tribal communities.
  • Local newsletters and Chamber of Commerce/community websites are good avenues for building resource awareness.

View Autism in Rural Areas Poster: PDF | Word


An Emerging Leader Update from Lissie

By Lauren Beyer, UM Rural Institute

lissie with display of productsFifteen years ago, Melissa, lovingly nicknamed Lissie, pushed bottles on an assembly line two or three days a week. Her life was often dictated by what others told her she could not do rather than what she thought she could learn. Today, Lissie is a successful and respected businesswoman. She is confident and proud to be a taxpaying member of society.

Lissie was interviewed in 2009 as part of the Emerging Leader series. I called six years later to find out what was new. The first thing she told me, laughing, is that she is no longer 33 years old. In addition, her recognition is growing, as well as her business responsibilities. Her life is full of activity, relationships, and activism. She is a busy woman who accomplishes whatever she is determined to pursue.

You can read more about Lissie on the Transition & Employment Projects email newsletter:

RTC: Rural - Born Accessible

Born accessible is a term that refers to documents and information that are created in formats using the four basics of information accessibilityright from the start.  Born accessible means that a document, website, book or presentation doesn’t have to be converted or adapted to be accessible but rather is created in accessible formats to meet the needs of users.  With a little training, born accessible strategies are easy to incorporate using existing technology.

Read more about accesible documents on the RTC:Rural website:

Regional Training for Stepping On® Leaders

Nov. 30 & Dec. 1
These courses, offered by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, are available in different parts of the state annually. Stepping On® is a CDC promoted, evidence-based fall prevention program for older adults and has been shown to decrease falls by over 30 percent in community dwelling older adults. If you live in Montana, have experience working with older adults and would be interested in being considered for training, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information. This is training for leaders to teach the Stepping On® course. The only cost is your time. Prior experience with older adults or fall prevention is desirable but not required. Seats are limited.

Rural Institute for Inclusive Communties presents at DiverseU

Meg 2014 DiverseUFaculty and staff of UM’s Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities presented information on community accessibility at “DiverseU,” the University of Montana’s annual diversity symposium. Presentations offered insight into the ways in which community design either includes or excludes people with disabilities and began with an historic overview.

Bob Listen at DiverseUThe history of disability has been one of exclusion in which people with disabilities were not able to be part of daily life and were often institutionalized in inhumane conditions. But in the 1960’s, advocates and activists worked for sweeping social change that eventually led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Although the ADA is coming up on its 25th anniversary, many community spaces remain inaccessible.

Continue reading more about the DiverseU presentation

Leadership Training with Families and Healthcare Providers

Bethany Rigles is the Montana State Coordinator for the Utah Regional Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (URLEND) consortium. Since 2006 over 20 UM students and parents have participated as trainees in the URLEND consortium, which originates at the University of Utah Medical School in Salt Lake City, UT. URLEND aims to develop future leaders in the fields of disability and health, and to improve health and educational outcomes for children and youth with disabilities and their families.

Continue reading about leadership training

Did you Know


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Advice for the Governor

Disability, Health and the Governor

Dr. Meg Traci was recently appointed by Montana Governor Steve Bullock to the Montana Community First Choice (CFC) Development and Implementation Council. The Council advises the Department of Public Health and Human Services on the development of an integrated home and community-based service system for Montana. The Community First Choice Option will enable more Montanans with disability to stay at home rather than entering nursing homes. The Council seeks input from consumers, family members, advocates, providers, and other stakeholders. Dr. Traci looks “forward to working on related projects with UM students and faculty colleagues," and acknowledges that "it is an honor to serve on the Council, and provide input on the development of CFC Option in Montana.” Dr. Traci’s expertise will contribute to the CFC person-centered planning process.

Continue reading Advice for the Governor

UM Improving Independence of People with Disabilities in South Korea

The independent living movement in South Korea is young, vibrant and ready to make South Korea accessible for all people with disabilities. In August, Dr. Craig Ravesloot, Director of Rural Health Research for the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities, supported that vision by conducting Living Well with a Disability facilitator training in Seoul. More than 85 staff and directors from Centers for Independent Living (CIL) attended the training.

Continue reading about South Korea

UM Graduate Student Part of National Expert Panel

helen-busy streetResearch shows that children with disabilities experience more social isolation, higher obesity rates and as pedestrians, they are five times more likely to be hit by a vehicle when compared to children without disabilities. Helen Russette, a University of Montana graduate student studying public health, hopes to change those statistics.

Continue reading about National Expert Panel

National Disability Employment Expert

Catherine Ipsen at deskNational expert on disability and employment? We’ve got it.

Dr. Catherine Ipsen was among a select few recently invited to present her research findings at the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. The presentation and subsequent meeting with national leaders in disability and employment was focused on the translation of research findings to practice. According to Ipsen it was “an incredible experience to spend a day with leading researchers in the field -- the people I reference in my own work and look to for guidance in an evolving field.”

Continue reading about disability and employment

Access to outdoor recreation is the goal of the UM MonTECH Recreation program

 MonTECH Outdoor Recreation Lee Bastion and Kathy LaurinFor the past several years, MonTECH director Kathy Laurin and her staff have been compiling accessibility information for Montana public recreation lands. During the summer of 2013, Lee Bastian, who recently retired as a Regional Park Manager for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, evaluated recreation sites in western Montana to see how accessible they are… or aren’t, for people with disabilities.

Continue reading about outdoor recreation

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