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A busy week in the Nation’s Capital!

Marty Blair and Jason B at US Capitol

Marty Blair and Jason Billehus were part of a Montana disability delegation to the 2016 Disability Policy Seminar earlier this week. They participated in a number of meetings and seminars focused on improving policies and programs for people with disabilities.Montana Coffee 2016 Marty Blair with Senators Tester, Daines and Representative Zinke They met with the Montana Congressional delegation and their staff: Senators Tester, Daines and Representative Zinke.

Success Stories from the Montana Disability and Health Program

kathie bach
“In older American towns, like Glendive, it’s important to realize that accessibility is needed and can continually be improved for a whole and healthy community.”
~ Kathie Bach, Glendive resident & MTDH Disability Advisor since 2003.

Public Health Issue

People with disabilities compose about 20% of the U.S. population but often are left out of community planning efforts. As communities organize to ‘…build active community initiatives’, persons with disabilities have significant roles in realizing a healthy community for all its members regardless of ability.

Program Overview    

The Montana Disability and Health (MTDH) Program recruits, trains and supports Disability Advisors who provide technical assistance and infuse disability inclusion and wellness goals in public health planning at state and local levels. The Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity (NAPA) Program’s Building Active Communities Initiative (BACI) is a project of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services in cooperation with Montana State University’s Office of Rural Health. With in-depth, interactive training, mentoring and ongoing technical assistance, NAPA’s Building Active Communities Initiative supports community-led approaches to develop active and healthy communities. MTDH Disability Advisors are involved in BACI planning and implementation in communities across Montana and are supported with data and resources (e.g., Montana BACI Disabilities Resources & Information, available at: ).

Making a Difference

Active community policy resolutions have been adopted in eleven Montana towns to date. Examples of inclusive planning language in those policies include “accessible streets”, “safe and accessible routes”, “meet the needs of all users and abilities”, and “universal access to transit systems”. Community BACI Teams reported that a Disability Advisor testimony directed them to be more thoughtful about the inclusion of community members with disabilities in active communities work.

Dawson County is a rural county with a population nearly doubling the state rate in the past few years due to the oil boom in eastern Montana and North Dakota. In 2013, Dawson County sent a multi-sector leadership team representing the county and the city of Glendive to the first Montana BACI Action Institute. Soon after attending the Action Institute the Building Active Glendive (BAG) coalition was formed and currently has close to a dozen community leaders including the Mayor of Glendive, a county commissioner, the health department, Rotarians, planners and engineers as well as active community volunteers. Dawson County adopted a Complete Streets Policy in October 2014 that received national recognition, a third ranking among all complete streets policies passed nationwide in 2014. The City unanimously passed the “Safe and Accessible Streets” Policy for the City of Glendive in April 2015.

Contact Information: Meg Traci, PhD; 52 Corbin Hall, Missoula, MT 59812; (406) 243-4356; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

MTDH is a State Disability & Health Grantee of the Disability and Health Branch, Division of Human Development & Disability, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MTDH is a partnership of the Montana DPHHS and the University of Montana Rural Institute for Inclusive communities. More information is available at:    

© 2016 RTC: Rural. Opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the funding agency.

Montana Nutrition Physical Activity Program

Montana Disability Health Program

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AMCHP meeting in DC

Marty Blair at the AMCHP meeting

The AMCHP meeting in DC last week was outstanding. Marty Blair, Director of the Rural Institute, attended the meeting and met some wonderful new people and connected with several Montana colleagues. Tarra Thomas, chair of the Montana Council on Developmental Disabilities was there and he had an opportunity to visit with AUCD staff, Ben and Shannon. He also had lunch with several Montana Title 5 staff. There was certainly no shortage of good ideas and talked about future collaborations.


RTC: Rural at the Association of American Geographers Conference

Lillie Andrew Association of American Geographers ConferenceAndrew Myers and Lillie Greiman were at a conference the last week of March and presented a couple posters on some of the research we have been working on (funded through the RTC: Rural and the RTC on Community Living in Kansas). The conference was the Association of American Geographers Conference in San Francisco and our posters were titled: The Geography of Home for People with Disabilities & Person-Environment Fit in Rural Communities: Toward and Ecology of Disability

You can learn about the Geography of Home Research at

Marty Blair presents at the State Policy Summit

Marty Blair presents at ASERTThe director of the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities, Marty Blair, presented on the March 22 panel with Cecilia Feely at the inaugural State Policy Summit: Innovations in Adult Programming, sponsored by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, & Training Collaborative (ASERT) in Philadelphia, PA.

The primary goal of the summit is to gather experts from across the United States to share successes in establishing, maintaining and evolving programs, policies, service philosophies and models within systems for adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disabilities (ID), other developmental disabilities (DD), and mental health diagnoses (MH).

April 12th Webinar: Technology for All

During this webinar, the presenters will describe assistive technology (AT), both high- and low-tech, to help young adults with disabilities succeed at school and at work. Ideas for funding will also be shared. 


  • Theresa Baldry, Project Coordinator, Montana Pre-Employment Transition Services Technical Assistance Center Team
  • Isaac Baldry, Consumer Advisory Council Member, Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities
  • Julie Doerner, Clinical Coordinator, Montana Assistive Technology Program, Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 • 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM MDT

Register on the Transition & Employment Projects newsletter.

Montana Programs make Impact

impact wellness coverThe newest Impact issue from the Institute on Community Integration & Research and Training Center on Community Living highlights the work people in Montana are doing to support wellness for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Connie Lewis, Rural Institute employee, and community partner Andrea Dahl, from Summit Independent Living Center in Missoula, are featured for their leadership and participation in 14 Weeks to a Healthier You, a fitness and nutrition program developed by the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD). Supported by the Montana Disability and Health Program at the Rural Institute, the 14 Weeks program addresses the need for health promotion and wellness opportunities for people with disabilities in Montana.

The Institute for Community Inclusion’s announcement of the new issue states:
“Wellness is a rapidly growing area of focus for Americans. But for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, access to wellness activities and programs can be limited. How can we open up participation? Find out in the just-released free publication, Impact: Feature Issue on Supporting Wellness for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Continue reading about the newest Impact issue

Emerging Leader Interview with Malia

malia emerging leaderInterview by Maclaen Burningham, Rural Institute Consumer Advisory Council Member; Story by Lauren Beyer, Rural Institute Project Assistant

I spoke with Malia nine days before her life was scheduled to change. In a short period of time, she will turn 18, graduate early from high school in Great Falls, move to Butte, and start her education at Job Corps in Anaconda. During her year of training, Malia hopes to become skilled as a brick layer. Her second and third choices are heavy equipment operator or carpenter.

Malia is diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. When I asked if she was nervous about completing Job Corps as a teen with a disability, she assured me she was not.

Read more about Malia on the Transition & Employment Projectrs newsletter.

Emerging Leader Interview with Kirsten

One of the goals of the Rural Institute Transition and Employment Projects is to expand the vision of what is possible for youth and young adults with developmental disabilities to learn, live, work and play in their communities. In the recent Emerging Leader interview by Maclaen Burningham, you'll meet Kirsten an energetic and savvy young lady with great plans for her future.

kristen"Don't Doubt Yourself"- Interview by Maclaen Burningham, Rural Institute Consumer Advisory Council member; story by Lauren Beyer, Rural Institute Project Assistant

Kirsten is a lively high school senior. She is quick to laugh and seems content in her skin. During her time at Big Sky High School, Kirsten has grown comfortable with her learning disability. She is not ashamed to talk about it and is willing to ask teachers for help if needed. Although she is light-hearted, she is also serious about reaching her goals.

Continue reading about Kristen on the Transition's newsletter.


Living Well Featured on CDC

Living Well with a Disability, a health promotion program for people with disabilities, was featured by the CDC in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) as an intervention to reduce health disparities experienced by people with disabilities.  It was developed nearly 25 years ago by researchers at the University of Montana, Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural) and Kansas University Research and Training Center on Independent Living with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute on Disability Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).  The program focuses on the specific health self-management needs of people with disabilities by addressing and building skills to prevent and reduce secondary conditions.

Continue reading article on the RTC:Rural website


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