Image shows:mILp - Downtown Helena; Text: Who we are and what we do

Our history.

History Timeline (text summary below)

In 1980, two Montana groups wrote grants to the Department of Education for Independent Living. Dennis Vermillion and Charlie Briggs, from the State Client Assistance Program (CAP) office (a.k.a Missoula Advocacy Program), wrote one of the grants based on the Community Organization and Systems Advocacy of Montanans with Disabilities, now mILp. The other grant was written by Wendy Holmes, an Occupational Therapist and Registered (OTR) Director out of Missoula Rehabilitation Department. This grant became known as the Summit Independent Living Center.

In October 1981, both mILp and Summit received their grants with the Federal expectation that mILp would work out of Helena, Great Falls, and Billings for community organizing and systems advocacy as requested by people living with disabilities. Dennis and Charlie created a mILp Board of Directors, then hired Sister Janet Kennedy to be mILp’s first Executive Director.

Zana Smith become mILp’s 2nd Executive Director in 1985. During this time, consolidation planning began and with a vote to close mILp’s Billings and Great Falls offices.

In 1988/1989 – Part A funds provided Great Falls and Billings territories to become the stand alone centers we know today. North Central Independent Living opens in Great Falls in 1989 and covers 17 counties while Living Independently For Today and Tomorrow opens in Billings and covers 18 counties.

Today, mILp is one of four Centers for Independent Living in the State of Montana. The Definition of a Center for Independent Living (CIL) from Section 702 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended: The term "center for independent living" means a consumer‑controlled, community‑based, cross‑disability, nonresidential private nonprofit agency that is designed and operated within a local community by individuals with disabilities and provides an array of independent living services.

mILp is governed by a consumer-controlled Board of Directors whose lives have been personally impacted by a disability. We are funded in part by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended in 1992 (Title VII- Independent Living Services), and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (Disability Services Division).

Mission and philosophy.

mILp’s mission as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and as a Center for Independent Living, is to promote independence for people living with disabilities residing in 14 southwest Montana counties. Since 1981, mILp assists consumers to live, work, and recreate as independently as they desire. This includes, but is not limited to, having access to not only the necessary services one requires but also the recreational pursuits one desires that promote a quality of life within one's own residence and community.

mILp continues to be a leader in our communities, assuring disability rights for all Montanans by enthusiastically encouraging and effecting community inclusion, integration, and independence for people living with disabilities. To better meet the needs of our consumers, we have three offices located in Helena, Butte, and Bozeman.

Our resources and services.

mILp has 3 offices located in Helena, Butte, and Bozeman. We have 26 employees and 3 peer support personnel. 51% of mILp Board of Directors and staff have disabilities. We have a total of 5 service areas: 1) Information & Refferal, 2) Independent Living Skills Training, 3) Peer Counseling, 4) Individual & Systems Advocacy, and 5) Transition Services. mILp serves 14 counties in southwest Montana.

Our board members.

Libbie (Elizabeth) Chute, Ph.D, President in Helena, Montana (Achievement: Retired Associate Professor of Sociology, Carroll College); Steve Baril, Director in Helena, Montana (Achievements: US Navy 1967-1970 and Retired former Bureau Chief of Field Services for the MT Department of Agriculture); Joe Mathews, Director in Helena, Montana (Achievement: Retired Director of Montana Disability Services Division); Ingrid Hill, Director in Bozeman, Montana (Achievement: Consultant/Instructor at Crisis Intervention Team Montana); Leonard Haxby, Director in Butte, Montana (Achievement: Attorney at Law); Bob Maffit, Director in Helena, Montana (Achievement: mILp Chief Executive Officer); Diane Belcourt, Direcotr in Bozeman, MT (Achievements: Small Business Owner and Former Independent Living Specialist).