Research professor Brené Brown said, “We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to.”
Brie Oliver, executive director for Montana’s Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB), reiterates the same message daily to mothers in the Helena community.
A Helena native, 37-year-old Oliver pursued a nursing degree from Montana State University. During her clinicals, Oliver observed the epidemic of chronic health care needs. She decided then and there that she wanted her future work to focus on preventative health care. More specifically, she sought to apply a “multi-generational approach” by focusing on achieving healthy pregnancies for moms and healthy early childhoods for babies.
Since stepping up as director, Oliver admits learning a lot and broadening her scope into the larger statewide system.
“I became aware of the system problems in the community that kept families from being successful,” said Oliver.
While she has only been in the director role for about a year, Oliver has been hard at work. From advocating for the health and wellbeing of children and mothers, facilitating statewide conversations to improve resources and support systems and securing funds to make those resources a reality, she’s left her mark on the community.
“She is adept at bringing people to the table to facilitate how we can uplift the most vulnerable in our community,” said Sarah Crowley, home visiting program supervisor for Lewis and Clark County.
“She is a fierce advocate for family wellness and is a shining light of hope for families in need,” said Katie Bevan, a home visiting nurse for Lewis and Clark County.
According to Trina Filan, community impact coordinator for United Way, Oliver was responsible for the founding of the Home Visiting Task Force and Maternal Mental Health Task Force. Oliver has also worked to coordinate opportunities for early childhood coalitions across Montana to join efforts for shared funding, expertise and advocacy.
For Oliver, the reality of her accomplishments thus far comes down simply to building relationships — among experts in the field, and between mothers bringing new life into the world.
“By building a community of mothers who have themselves experienced postpartum depression and connecting them with supportive resources, we are taking the layers of shame and blame off,” said Oliver. “I want to make sure the next mom is nurtured and supported in a way that allows her to know that she will get better.”
“We all come into motherhood at different places of support and resources,” shared Oliver. “There’s always room to learn from each other.”