Member Spotlight – Eastern Montana Community Mental Health Center

Have you ever had it happen where you hear a word or a name, and then you repeat it to yourself a time or two, but then out of nowhere it has become a completely different word … and you are 1000% convinced you’ve got it right? Well this exact thing happened to me as I was orchestrating this month’s Member Spotlight with Brenda Kneeland. After a couple emails, I just started referring to her as …. Barbara. Why did this happen? Where did I go so wrong? Will she ever forgive me?

It’s doubtful.

For making this most egregious error, Brenda (Not Barbara) has been blackmailing me by demanding a dozen cookies be sent her way. When I tried to hide behind the excuse of “supply chain issues” and “labor shortages,” she responded simply with these words:

Talk is cheap.  When can I expect the cookies?”

Soooo ….. If you don’t already love Brenda as much as I do, I don’t know what to say. Nonetheless, read on and learn a bit about the wonderful organization she represents.

Eastern Montana Community Mental Health Center

1.       What is your name and the name of the organization you represent?  

My name is Brenda Kneeland, I represent the Eastern Montana Community Mental Health Center (EMCMHC)

2.       Where can we find your website?

3.       Where in Montana are you located? 

We are headquartered in Miles City and operate staffed offices in Miles City, Glendive, Glasgow, Sidney, Wolf Point, and Plentywood.

4.       Tell us a bit about your organization, and the sort of work it does?  

EMCMHC has been in business since 1967 and we provide a variety of adult and children’s prevention, mental health and substance abuse treatment services to residents in seventeen Eastern Montana Counties.  We also operate three SDMI adult waiver group homes in the region.  Our service area is quite large, approximately 48,000sq miles.  We have approximately 120 employees throughout Eastern Montana and we conduct telehealth services, as well as in-person.

5.       Doing the kind of work you do can be both rewarding and challenging. What are some of the biggest ongoing challenges your organization faces as it works to accomplish its goals?  

Ongoing challenges that we face at EMCMHC that come with the frontier nature of our service area include limited providers, staffing challenges, geography (weather and miles to travel), and limited resources for our clients (housing, other social service agencies/providers).

6.       Tell us about some of your accomplishments, and what you are most proud of as an organization?  

Over the past 12 months, our organization has successfully implemented three MACT teams in our region.  These are the first assertive community treatment teams to ever operate in Eastern Montana.  This was a full team effort and I am so proud of the amazing staff we have at EMCMHC.  We are an agency comprised of people who get things done and are not afraid to go the extra mile for our clients.  We have amazing staff in every department of this agency and they truly care about the residents and communities in this region.

Random Fact:  EMCMHC holds a cabbage bowling tournament to celebrate St. Paddy’s day – we fling cabbage down the halls and try to knock over pins for prizes.  It is one of many things that keeps us sane (?)

7.       Respecting the privacy of any individual(s), can you relay to us a story (or two or three!) about a time or situation that had a personal, positive impact on you in the course of doing your job?  

Like everyone else working in mental health in Montana, I get tired every day.  I’m tired of fighting for dollars, tired of service changes and tired of uncertainty.  However, I also feel blessed beyond measure to be surrounded by EMCMHC staff and peers at BHAM who fight this same fight everyday as well.  I look at our clients, some of whom rely on this agency for their well-being in this world and it inspires me to see them thrive, recover and move forward.

8.       What are some pros and cons to working in behavioral health in Montana?  

Some pros to working in behavioral health in Eastern Montana include the strong partnerships and working relationships we have with our seventeen counties.  Our Board of Directors is comprised of a County Commissioner from each of our counties and they are all extremely supportive of the work we do.  They support this agency and are willing to help us deliver much needed and appreciated services in the region.  One con to working in behavioral health in Eastern Montana is that nothing is easy – distance and limited resources are always barriers.  We work through the barriers though (sometimes around, under and over them), but we get it done.

9.       Thinking of the population you serve, and the areas of behavioral health you are most involved with, if you could snap your fingers to make one change, what would it be?  

I would reduce the stigma associated with mental health in this area so that we help more people and reduce the suicide rate in Eastern Montana, especially farmers and ranchers (who are struggling and facing really uncertain times due to drought), veteran’s, young people, and anyone else who is hurting.

10.   If you had to give a shout out to another BHAM organization for doing exceptional work, what org would it be? Why?  

I would give two shout out’s – the first to Frontier Psychiatry because they are literally changing the landscape of mental health in Montana by providing psychiatry and medication management services to people and areas of this state that have never had access to those services.  My other shout out would be to the Rimrock Foundation – they are taking a deep dive into addressing both mental health in Montana and have been forward thinking and committed to delivering the best care possible to the residents of this state.  I’m really proud to have both Frontier & Rimrock as partners in Eastern Montana.

11.   Any other shout-outs or kudos for Montana’s behavioral health heroes?  

A HUGE shout out to Mary Windecker at BHAM.  She is a tireless and amazing advocate for behavioral health in Montana and she is amazing (and orders good cookies for the BHAM meetings)

To learn more about Eastern Montana Community Mental Health Center, and to see what they have going on, check out their website: