Organization: A.W.A.R.E., Inc.
Service area: All counties and every major city in Montana, as well as in Rio Rancho and Albuquerque, New Mexico
Main services: Full continuum of care for children and adults, including mental/emotional healthcare, developmental disability services, family services, and housing assistance
Number of staff: 900+ FTE (700 daily staffers and 200 staffers that assist as needed)
Most vivid behavioral healthcare memory: "The first day I worked in an ICFMR in Montana, on my first staff break, I was given a choice between helping the resident of the facility who was having an epileptic seizure in the hallway or helping the staff person who was having a seizure in the office. I helped the resident and called for help for the staff member. It was a tough choice."
Guiding principle: â€â€˜Convenience is a commodity strictly reserved for the consumer.' It is part of a philosophy that emphasizes the difference between people who pay for services and those paid to provide services. Sometimes staff gets better services than consumers if the balance is lost in this area."
"There are two stories that represent my career. I've used both to develop most of the services we have at A.W.A.R.E., Inc. The first I call 'The Shovel.' In 1971, I worked as a laborer building an industrial plant. My coworker, 80-year-old Otis, could outwork anyone. One day Otis and I were shoveling gravel, a tiresome chore since most of the gravel falls off the shovel. I was complaining about it and Otis said, 'I don't worry about this like you do. I only worry about the back two inches of my shovel. If I do that the rest of the shovel takes care of itself.' Otis was saying that if you concentrate on picking up the gravel for the back two inches, you won't spill as much and, in fact, will lift more. This philosophy has stuck with me and has become part of the foundation of our organization. If we can serve the 'back two inches of the shovel,' the 'front' will take care of itself. I believe we have proved this. If people know you serve the toughest cases, they trust you can serve the cases with less severe needs. This is how we helped grow our services.
"I call the second story 'The Apostrophe.' It comes from the Frank Zappa song 'Stink Foot' on the Apostrophe album. It is a song about a talking dog. His owner comments on the dog's ability to talk. 'You can't do that,' he tells the dog. The dog replies, 'The crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe'—the 'can'ts, don'ts, shouldn'ts' in our lives. I believe this is an accurate depiction of the challenges people with disabilities face. It is what others think people with disabilities can't or shouldn't do that is the major problem they face.
"These stories are part of the guiding principles we use to develop services. When staff discover we can manage the most difficult cases, their confidence and skills grow. We develop a higher tolerance for everything else, and we are able to serve each person better."
The 2007 Behavioral Health Champion Awards are sponsored by Netsmart Technologies.