Rural Institute Offers Education and Support to Advocates
The Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities is mandated by the federal Developmental Disabilities Act to educate policy makers about how their decisions impact children and adults with disabilities. One way we educate policy makers is to provide leadership education and support to local advocates like Jackie Mohler of Family Outreach, Inc. in Helena, MT. She recently represented Montana at the AUCD Leadership Academy (https://disability.publichealth.gsu.edu/academy/).
Upon her return and with the Rural Institute's continued support, Jackie partnered with State Representative Mary Caferro (D-Helena) to establish the statewide disability advocacy group, Montana Disability Voices (https://www.mtdisabilityvoices.org/). Jackie is currently working with state legislators to educate them on the benefits of HB 251, a Montana Medicaid buy-in program for children with disabilities. Connections made through her Rural Institute-supported activities have provided the technical resources, confidence and "know how" to develop and advocate for improved services for Montana's children with disabilities and their families.
To further her advocacy work with families, Jackie and her Family Outreach colleagues, Teri Lilletvedt and Angela Nelmark, attended the 2018 AUCD Pre-Meeting Summit on Early Childhood and the early childhood sessions of the 2018 AUCD meeting. They gathered early childhood/ early intervention training materials and resources to be considered for incorporation into Montana's statewide Family Support Specialist (FSS) training curriculum under development by the Montana Early Childhood Center at MSU Bozeman.
Investments in leadership education and local advocacy support enable the Rural Institute to build capacity of disability advocates and address important issues in the disability community.