Montana was chosen as a targeted community through the Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center: Targeted Communities (VR-TAC-TC) or Project E3. Project E3 partnered with State VR Agencies and local community partners to improve outreach and employment-related services to underserved people with disabilities in this community.

Map outline of the state of montana

Montana's beautiful landscape includes forests, prairies, highlands, and valleys. It includes the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide in the western part of the state and rolling plains in the eastern part of the state. Two-thirds of Montana is in the Great Plains.

Montana's economy is primarily based on agriculture, including ranching and cereal grain farming. Other significant economic activities include oil, gas, coal and hard rock mining, lumber, and the fastest-growing sector, tourism. Health care, service, and government sectors are also significant to the state's economy. In 2011, Montana ranked third in the nation in number of craft breweries per capita.

The population in Montana is distributed over a large geographic area. Montanans living in rural areas face unique challenges to both accessing services and finding employment. These challenges are compounded for those living with disability and poverty.

Targeted Communities

The state-federal vocational rehabilitation system in Montana faced many challenges as it strove to serve people with significant disabilities and promote competitive integrated employment. Project E3 provided intensive technical assistance to two regions of the state:

  • Region 1: Glacier County and Blackfeet Reservation
  • Region 2: Bighorn County
This map shows the Geographic Regions where Project E3 will provide technical assistance.

Key Information:

Native American Population

Glacier County

Blackfeet Indian Reservation

 Home to the Blackfeet Nation

  •  Located in Glacier County
  • One of the 10 largest tribes in the United States

Poverty Rate


National rate = 12.8%



National rate = 4.4%

Disability Rate


National rate = 13.5%

VR Case Closure


National rate = 31%

College Graduates


State rate = 29%

Targeted Populations

Within the targeted communities, Project E3 focused on improving vocational rehabilitation service outcomes for these populations:

  • Persons with Alcohol and Other Drug Addictions (AODA)
  • Persons with Diabetes
  • Persons with Depression
  • Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

These populations were characterized as:

  • Culturally diverse populations
  • Persons with multiple disabilities
  • Residents of rural and remote communities

Primary Challenges for Targeted Populations

The combination of the challenges above and other factors created significant barriers for persons with disabilities living in Montana, including:

  • Limited awareness of the availability of vocational rehabilitation services
  • Unstable and limited funding for the tribal vocational rehabilitation program and Blackfeet Manpower
  • Fear of losing benefits through work
  • Ability of vocational rehabilitation counselors to provide culturally appropriate rehabilitation services
  • Limited opportunities for work and lack of knowledge of opportunities
  • Lack of transportation

Key Strategies to Address Barriers

Following are some of the key strategies developed and implemented to address the targeted populations' challenges and barriers to employment.

Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR): To understand a community’s issues and concerns, one needs data and information both supplied by common data sources and interpreted by the community to better understand their issues and possible solutions to those issues.  CBPR’s methodology is predicated on deep and extensive community involvement in the identification of issues and concerns and in the resolution of those issues and concerns.

Motivational Interviewing: The Crow Agency identified MI as a key strategy for their staff working with persons with disabilities.  This was supplemented with training on Impression Management.

Impression Management Training Tools

    Motivational Interviewing

    Montana Overview PowerPoint Presentation

    Project Outcomes

    Project E3 provided Montana’s state Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and their partners with the skills and competencies needed to effectively and efficiently address barriers to competitive integrated employment and community integration encountered by persons with disabilities in these regions.

    Our specific goals for this project were to:

    • Increase the number of applicants for vocational rehabilitation service
    • Increase the number of individuals found eligible for vocational rehabilitation service
    • Increase the percentage of eligible individuals who develop Individual Plans for Employment with their vocational rehabilitation counselors
    • Increase the percentage of individuals with Individual Plans for Employment who obtain and retain integrated, competitive employment.

    We will leverage promising practices, knowledge, and experience gained from this project to expand employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities from underserved and economically disadvantaged populations throughout Montana and across the United States.

    Tools and Resources

    More Information

    For further information about these community activities contact:


    University of Wisconsin-Madison


    Tim Tansey, Ph.D.