Saturday, February 24, 2018

Circle of Life CEO Himmat Singh (back row, center) stands with his employees at Circle of Life Home Care’s new location along Center Avenue in Hardin. Standing from the left are (back row) office coordinator Collena Brown, Singh, receptionist Raelene Yazzie and (front row) registered nurse Pamela Garza.

Local home care options expand with arrival of Circle of Life in Hardin

A new venue to help seniors and people with disabilities get through the day has opened along Center Avenue in Hardin, called Montana Circle of Life Home Care. This business, according to its office coordinator Collena Brown, is a “home health care service” that helps its clients, or “members,” with anything from homemaking to meal preparation to bathing.
One of 20 locations in seven states, Circle of Life opened up shop in Hardin near the beginning of September after it moved from a previous location in Billings. Though its pamphlet states the business is a “Native American-specific home care agency,” Brown said their current client base is Caucasian and Spanish in addition to American Indian. It serves Big Horn, Yellowstone and Rosebud counties.
“It’s not just for one specific race of people,” Brown said. “It’s for everybody.”
Circle of Life offices tend to be located near reservations, said Brown, one of the main proponents for the move from Billings to Hardin. As coordinator of the up-start location, she said it was interesting changing jobs from her previous occupation – a Head Start teacher in Crow Agency for five years – to one without as many familiar faces.
“My supervisor lives in Phoenix, but the head offices are in Minnesota,” Brown said. “We get a lot of long-distance calls.”
Circle of Life CEO Himmat Singh, who began his position in January, visited the Hardin location on Oct. 16 to show support for the new employees. As someone with a background in business development, sales and management, he is impressed by their work ethic.
“It’s one of the most beautiful things that we have,” Singh said. “When I have an opportunity to go visit our offices or meet people like Collena…how they work so well, it’s amazing.”
According to Brown, she has “no problem” driving out to the local community to find possible members. Once she builds a client base from the Crow Reservation, Brown said, she intends to search the Northern Cheyenne Reservation as well so “they get the help that they need.” 
Members, Brown continued, must be approved by Medicaid – no private pay or Veterans Affairs coverage may be used at present. 
“I know a lot of the older folks who actually do need help. I’ve called a couple of them, I’ve gone to their houses and I’ve gone to go see them,” she said. “Our problem with the reservation is a lot of the tribal members aren’t Medicaid eligible because a lot of them owned land. According to the State of Montana, if you own land, it’s considered an asset…even though a lot of it is fractionated with other family members.”
If a tribal member lives on trust land, or land held by the U.S. Department of Interior for the benefit of a Native tribe, then Brown said they still might be eligible for Medicaid. She currently is looking into ways to get more people signed up for Medicaid.
“We have about eight members; we could have more,” Brown said. “I really want to reach 50 clients. I really do. 
“I want to reach for a really high number of clients, so I can bring on more staff and hire more people. If you reach a certain point, then you need more people to help you.”
By hiring more people she said, Circle of Life can help gain employment for those furloughed by the Crow tribal government. Circle of Life employs a combined amount of about 1,600 people – six of them work for the Hardin location, including three personal care assistants for Hardin, Pryor and Billings. 
Circle of Life has Ojibwe roots; its founder Patricia Yager began planning its first location in 2003 after she noticed “unmet needs for Native health and home care,” a recent article in The Circle newspaper states. The first location, Circle of Life Anishinaabe, was licensed in Minneapolis two years later.
“I don’t know how I did it,” she told The Circle recently. “It was a matter of just keeping on moving forward.”
According to Singh, Yager’s dual goals of helping others and providing employment for American Indians drew him to join the Circle of Life team. 
From there, Singh continued, learning about Native family dynamics, such as the role of elders in passing lessons to future generations, has been “the most beautiful thing” for him.
“That’s Pat’s vision,” he said. “We try to cover all of Indian Country in the U.S.”
Circle of Life in Hardin, located at 222 N. Center Ave., may be reached by phone at (406) 665-4067 or (406) 665-4042. For more information, visit the group’s website at