ANACONDA — AWARE has been working with mental health and developmental disabilities in Montana for almost 50 years.
The non-profit needs staff, but it’s difficult to find since the pay is low and the challenges are high.
“They need to have a lot of patience with kids because our kids, they’re here because they have challenging needs,” said Center for Excellence System Administrator Gene Bilodeau.
AWARE is headquartered in Anaconda but operates statewide. It currently has about 800 staff members but would like to add 200 more to serve its many clients.
“What we can offer in wages is not what we’d like to be able to pay to honor the work. We have to live within rates set by the state of Montana both the executive and legislative branches,” said AWARE CEO Matt Bugni.
Many businesses have reported difficultly finding staff a year since the pandemic hit. AWARE’s Center for Excellence in Anaconda is a school for children with behavioral issues and it takes a special kind of person to work with the clients.
“That’s what brought me here was the ability to work with kids and hopefully make a difference in their lives and work with other people like-minded who want to make a difference and help these kids get a leg up,” said Bugni.
AWARE reports having a waiting list of people seeking services.
“We’re seeing a growing need in Montana, as a lot of people know, increasing suicide rate, increasing mental health needs. It was a need and a growing concern prior to the pandemic. With the pandemic it’s even more so,” said Bugni.
And while the AWARE organization is looking for people all around the state, they’re looking for people with that special quality and attitude to do this kind of work.
“This isn’t one of the jobs that they go to and leave the job when they leave, because we’re working with human beings, we’re working sometimes with tense interactions and it takes a special person that can compartmentalize that job and then go home and have their family life,” said Bilodeau.
Right now, there are 177 job listings at AWARE - click here to learn more.