May 2020 Newsletter

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  • DRM Helps Craft First Supported Decision Making Plan to Replace Unnecessary Guardianship for 43-Year-Old Man

  • State’s Appendix K Waiver Request Approved

  • It’s time to VOTE!

  • DRM Welcomes New Staff

  • Upcoming Events

Disability Rights Montana
Board of Directors:

Theresa Baldry
Donna Gleaves
Tami Hoar
Dave Richards
Maryanne Silve
Will Warberg
Kathie Waters


DRM Helps Craft First Supported Decision Making Plan to Replace Unnecessary Guardianship for 43-Year-Old Man

Jacob's supporters and friends in court on February 18, 2020

Jacob's supporter and friends in court on February 18, 2020

For all of Jacob’s life he had guardians, two of whom exploited his resources for their own benefit. On Tuesday, February 18, after hearing testimony from Jacob, Jacob’s sister, friends and providers, District Court Judge Mike Menahan agreed with Jacob Harrison and found he did not need a guardian or conservator, but could use a Supported Decision Making Agreement instead to make his own decisions.

A Supported Decision Making Agreement is an arrangement between a person with a disability and reliable people who the person trusts to give advice and counsel and support him to make decisions in his life. These Agreements are gaining popularity throughout the country as alternatives to restrictive guardianships, which often take away every constitutional and civil right of an individual with disabilities to make decisions.

During the hearing, Mr. Harrison told the court that he was ready to make his own choices and decisions, but that he just needed some help. Drawing from his love of trains, the agreement states, "I am the Engineer because I am in charge of my own life. I am my own man. I just need some help in a few areas. I need Conductors to help me make decisions about [finances and money, health care, and personal care.]"

Those “conductors”, who included family and community members, signed the agreement and testified they are available and willing to support Jacob.

In entering his order, Judge Menahan said:

This case stands as a model for other people like you who don't want guardians, who want to be able to make their own decisions, be their owns persons. This is great because this stands as a precedent that courts can look to, other people can look to, can point to, to say they want something that you have, and that's the ability to make decisions regarding yourself.

Disability Rights Montana is encouraging and willing to help private attorneys to utilize Supported Decision Making as an alternative to guardianship.

Jacob Harrison with DRM team: Ray Williams, Roberta Zenker, and Chris Rudmann

Jacob Harrison with DRM team: Ray Williams, Roberta Zenker, and Chris Rudmann

Jacob Harrison and Judge Mike Menahan

Jacob Harrison and Judge Mike Menahan


State’s Appendix K Waiver Request Approved

In response to the Covid-19 emergency, MT DPHHS has submitted a series of amendments to Montana’s Medicaid waivers to help lessen the impact of the situation upon providers and those who receive their services. The most recent of these was an Appendix K request which included various requests for alterations to the way that Medicaid waiver services are provided. This included all three disability waivers in our system: the Big Sky Home and Community Based Waiver (“Big Sky”), the Montana Behavioral Health Severe Disabling Mental Illness Home and Community Based Waiver (“SDMI”) and the Montana Home and Community Based Waiver for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (“0208"). We were given the opportunity to comment on the wavier application prior to submittal, and many of our recommendations were adopted. The state's Appendix K waiver was approved in late April. Click here to see the approved changes.


It’s time to VOTE!

Over the last month, DRM has been reaching out to disability advocates and service providers to provide voting documents and resources for the upcoming federal primary election on June 2, 2020. Given that this is the first ever all mail federal election in Montana, we focused on mail ballot-specific resources, including information about access to voting machines, curbside voting, and the importance of early registration. This project is ongoing with successful contact and materials supplied to over 18 entities and by press time, we sent out 505 registration cards with postage attached for the purpose of helping people with disabilities to register.

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If you do not know if you are registered to vote, click here to check if you are registered or contact your local election office. Click here to find the contact information for your local election office. 


Welcome to DRM!

A man sitting behind a laptop

Abuse & Neglect Attorney - Michael Lahr

Mike Lahr is the new attorney for the Abuse and Neglect Unit at DRM. Mike was born and raised in Conrad, Montana, graduated from Montana State University, and taught school in Valier before starting his legal career. He graduated from the University of Montana School of Law in 1991 and clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Charles C. Lovell for two years before entering private practice. Mike spent the next ten years as an associate and then partner in the law firm of Crowley, Haughey, Hanson, Toole and Dietrich primarily as a civil litigator. In 2004, he became an Assistant United States Attorney and served as a federal prosecutor until his retirement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2017. During his time with the Department of Justice, Mike also spent two years in Iraq as aResident Legal Advisor and as Justice Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Mike enjoys spending time with this family, reading and visiting Glacier Park as often as possible.


Advocate - Rachel Bechtel

Rachel is an advocate in our Core Services Unit. She just graduated from Carroll College with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Spanish. Rachel came to Montana from Moscow, Idaho, and has been interning at DRM for the past two years. Rachel is excited to transition to full-time and is eventually planning on attending law school to further pursue a career in disability rights advocacy. She is excited to have more opportunities to explore Montana and to continue to be a part of the DRM team.

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Upcoming Events

June 17 and 18 - State Administration and Veterans' Affairs Interim Committee meeting. Click here for meeting details.

June 29 and 30 - Children, Families, Health, and Human Services Interim Committee meeting. Click here for meeting details.


Protection & Advocacy Service Training

We are more than happy to provide training and workshops to others. We welcome nonprofits, clients, workplaces, and more, to reach out to us if you would like for us to present about our services, and how we can provide assistance. Call 406-449-2344 or email

Disability Rights Montana logo
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"Advocating for justice is our individual and collective responsibility."

Bernie Franks-Ongoy
Executive Director
Disability Rights Montana


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Disability Rights Montana protects and advocates for the human, legal, and civil rights of Montanans with disabilities while advancing dignity, equality, and self-determination.

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Disability Rights Montana
1022 Chestnut Street  | Helena, Montana 59601
406-449-2344 |

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