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First Fridays Family Training poster

DRM Launches its Education Website and Publishes its Student Rights Handbook

Disability Rights Montana is proud to announce the launch of our Education Website and publication of our Student Rights Handbook. The project is designed to help parents, advocates, and educators learn about the legal requirements and resources available for students with disabilities and to help ensure the civil and legal rights of students with disabilities are protected to the maximum extent of the law.  The site focuses on the educational rights of children with disabilities, but also covers information applicable to students with disabilities of all ages. Our Education Website can be accessed here on our home page by clicking "Education" on the Menu Bar above or directly at The Student Rights manual can be found on the site or directly at  

On the site you will find information about DRM′s education workgroup, the legal rights of students with disabilities, resources for parents, students and educators, and sample forms to assist parents and advocates in protecting student’s rights. It is our hope that this website will be a valuable resource for everyone working to educate Montanans of all abilities. 

We welcome feedback and comments for how we can improve our Education Website as well as information about resources and practitioners we should include. As always, if you have questions, please feel free to contact DRM. DRM’s Education Website and Student Rights Handbook were authored by Tal Goldin, supervising attorney for DRM’s Education Unit, with editing assistance from Kelsi Steele, DRM Education Advocate, and Laurie Danforth, DRM paralegal and executive assistant.  The project was supported in part by a generous grant from the Montana Justice Foundation. 

Patients Challenge Isolation, Abuse, and Failed Treatment at Montana State Hospital

On August 15, 2016, four patients at Montana State Hospital sued state officials and staff for the isolation, abusive and deficient treatment they have been subjected to at the Hospital in Warm Springs. The lawsuit alleges that officials at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services as well as staff at the Montana State Hospital have violated state and federal law in their treatment of the four patients. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop these practices as well as damages for the patients for the harm they have suffered.

Two of the patients have been subjected to long-term isolation nearly 24 hours a day for more than a year. This has markedly worsened their conditions and caused them extreme psychological and emotional harm.

A third patient was subjected to a traumatic forced "take-down" in the Galen facility, which is administrated by the Montana State Hospital. This was done as punishment for his behavior, even though his behavior is a predictable result of his mental state and illness, which is why he was sent to the facility for treatment in the first place. The entire "take-down" was video recorded.

The fourth patient was subjected, like all others patients in the hospital, to a harsh, illogical, and nonsensical "level system." The "level system" forces patients to "earn" psychiatric treatment, or basic human privileges such as sleeping without the lights on. This system routinely punishes patients for infractions including small acts of kindnesses, like giving someone a cup of coffee.

"We rely on the Montana State Hospital to care for people with serious mental illnesses who need thoughtful, professional, and therapeutic interventions," said Bernie Franks Ongoy, executive director of Disability Rights Montana, which is representing these patients. "Instead these patients have been the victims of abusive, antiquated, and unprofessional treatment, which has made their conditions worse than when they arrived at the facility in the first place."

After the case was filed, District Court Judge Kathy Seeley set a hearing at which the defendants must show cause why a temporary restraining order should not be issued against them. This hearing was held September 19 - 20 and will continue on December 13, 2016.

A copy of the complaint can be obtained by clicking here

Raffle Winner Donates Trip

Mel with his fishThe drawing for the Disability Rights Montana raffle was held on June 14, 2016. The raffle for a fishing trip was valued at $500, and included a licensed, insured, professional guide, boat and shuttle service, fishing instruction, terminal tackle such as flies, leaders & tippet, and lunch, all donated by God's Country Outfitters of Lincoln, Montana.

The winning ticket holder, Mark Kelley, of Helena, donated the trip back to DRM to be given to a person with a disability. Names were submitted by DRM staff and then drawn out of a hat. The lucky winner was Melvin Noon, who has a passion for fishing.

The fishing trip took place on the Blackfoot River on August 4th. Mel caught nine fish! He had a good time laughing and joking with his staff and Shane Erickson, the fishing guide. He thoroughly enjoyed his day on the Blackfoot River.
Thank you to all that supported Disability Rights Montana by purchasing raffle tickets. A special thank you to Mark Kelley for donating the trip to a person with a disability and to Shane Erickson, owner and guide with God's Country Outfitters of Lincoln, Montana. A total of $2900 was raised through the raffle and will be used to support Disability Rights Montana and its work to protect the rights of Montanans with disabilities.


PAIMI Advisory Council Meeting

The PAIMI Advisory Council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 19, 2017, from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., at the Disability Rights Montana Office located at 1022 Chestnut Street, Helena, Montana. The public is welcome. If you wish to attend, please call our office at 449-2344 or 1-800-245-4743 and let us know whether you need an accommodation.

DRM Annual Board of Directors Meeting

The DRM Board of Director’s meeting is scheduled for Friday, January 20, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., at the Disability Rights Montana Office located at 1022 Chestnut Street, Helena, Montana. The public is welcome. If you wish to attend, please call our office at 449-2344 or 1-800-245-4743 and let us know whether you need an accommodation.

2017 Legislative Session

The 2017 Montana Legislative Session began January 2, 2017.  As we have in prior years, DRM will be producing a short legislative e-newsletter nearly every Friday during the session to keep you all up to date on issues we care about. From critical decision making during the budget process, to monitoring our institutions, to protecting the disability community’s civil rights, we will endeavor to give you concise information to keep you informed and enable you to participate in the process. We are very lucky that our legislators are far more accessible than in other states. Make sure your legislators hear from you! Read the latest edition of our Legislative Update here!

Disability Rights Montana License Plate now available

Disability Rights Montana's specialty license plate is now available. You can purchase the plate by visiting your county treasurer's office. A one-time administrative fee and production cost for the specialty plate will be collected along with the standard vehicle registration fee and sponsor donation fee.

DRM License Plate Design

$20 Yearly Tax-deductible Donation to DRM
$10 One-time Administration Fee
$10 One-time Production Cost

Please show your support with the DRM license plate! Your purchase of the plate includes a $20 tax-deductible donation to support DRM and its work to protect the rights of Montanans with disabilities.

DRM releases its September issue of its Transition Newsletter. You can access the Newsletter by clicking here. Articles include: What is the PABSS Program and how can PABSS help schools and students and their families?; and What is the Client Assistance Program and Transition services mandated in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). There is also a calendar of upcoming events. 

Best Practices in Community Services for People Who Have Developmenta...

Below is a video of a converation with Allan Bergman with a positive view of the national movement to close institutions, as it has led to the creation of systems that help people live fuller and more positive lives than they had in institutional settings.

This video is a follow-up to the first in the bipartisan public education series "Best Practices in Community Services for People who have Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities" which was held on March 23, 2016, at the Montana Capitol. The bipartisan public education series was developed by Senator Ed Buttrey and Senator Mary Caferroto to help build understanding of cri More....

Doing the Right Thing for People with Disabilities and the City of Bo...

On May 6, 2015, Governor Bullock signed SB 411 into law. SB 411 directed the Department of Public Health and Human Services to close the Montana Developmental Center by July 2017. The bill created a committee to advise DPHHS on how best to close MDC and to minimize the impact to the city of Boulder and the work force. Specifically the committee is charged to:

(a) design and recommend a plan to close the Montana Developmental Center and transition residents into community-based services;
(b) propose a rate structure for providers of community-based services;
(c) identify potential sources of funding to support the proposed rate structure;
(d) recommend community-based services necessary to allow for the closure of the Montana Develo More....

DRM Releases Report
Disability Rights Montana released a report January 23, 2015, with significant details of numerous case stories of abuse and neglect at the Montana Developmental Center.  Investigations conducted by the Department of Justice over the course of the past year reveal that twenty-seven staff members, including the Director of Quality Assurance and Superintendent, have been involved in the case stories.  Some of the cases involve serious injuries, rape, and felony assault.   

DRM has monitored MDC for more than twenty years, and cites a climate and culture at MDC that perpetuates and tolerates abuse.  The cases cited in the report document slapping, grabbing, squeezing, pulling residents by the ankles, throwing them hard to the ground, kneeling o More....