HELENA – The Friendship Center in Helena is under new leadership and it’s a name familiar to many in the state of Montana.
Mike Batista is switching career gears and moving from state government work to nonprofit employment.
Batista was formerly the Director of the Montana Department of Corrections, Administrator of the Division of Criminal Investigations at the state Department of Justice and most recently, temporarily served on the Board of Pardons and Parole.
He spoke with MTN Friday about the new position and said he, “Began my career early on like right after school working in victim and witness services in Spokane; it’s like I’ve gone full circle and I’m now back helping victims and it feels really good.”
The Friendship Center provides a safe place for anyone, men and women, experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking; serving Lewis and Clark, Jefferson and Broadwater Counties.
After taking some time off following leaving state service in January of 2017, Batista said he’s excited for the new venture and has been a longtime supporter of the Friendship Center’s mission.
“Being supportive of people who have gone through a lot of trauma in their lives and we really have an opportunity to give them, in every way possible that we can, a normal life to help them sort of heal and that really means a lot to me,” he added.
While working with a nonprofit may be new to Batista, he said he’s looking forward to growing the already deep connections within the community of Helena and really helping the Center grow.
“I’m really looking forward to get out and network with the people that have been so supportive. With a nonprofit we’re always looking for opportunities to help fund our effort and every year there are always new challenges with being able to fund the center and offer the services,” Batista said. “Services keep growing so it’s important that we find new partners within the community to help us with our efforts so we can continue to do great work.”
Batista believes the conversation about domestic violence needs to continue, especially in society right now.
“If you look at what’s going on today in the country, we are probably missing a lot of victims that could really use the support and the services provided by the Center, but I think we need to continue to talk about it; talk about boundaries, appropriate behavior, respect for women, all those things. It’s probably more an important time than it’s ever been to continue to have that discussion.”
Hiring Batista came from the Center’s Board of Directors and President Kirsten Madsen said, “Mike brings vast experience and perspective to the Friendship Center. I’m confident his leadership and commitment to helping victims and improving services will benefit the Center and the communities we serve.”