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The Trainer's View
July 2024

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Kevin Simmons, MS

Kevin Simmons, trainer for the Oregon Motivational Interviewing project with the Native Center for Behavioral Health, is an enrolled member with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and a descendent of the Muckleshoot tribe. Kevin has several years of experience as an advocate for programs, services, and communities that strengthen tribal families in a number of areas. He is also a PhD student at the University of Oregon with research interests in culturally based pedagogy, adaptations of evidence based practices, and improving outcomes for American Indian/Alaskan Native people, families, and communities. As a father of 5 children, Kevin believes his greatest achievements are centered on family (tilixam) life.

By Kevin Simmons, MS


Our Oregon Motivational Interviewing (MI) project team developed from humble beginnings. The focus and intent has always been to have an impact in reducing the number of American Indian and Alaskan Native children and families that experience the foster care and child welfare systems. As an evidence-based practice MI is a valuable tool for child welfare personnel to build better relationships with the families being served. What I have experienced is that MI is a great tool and practice for Native communities to deliver culturally informed and culturally sustaining services to their people. 

Our team has trained in countless Native communities in Oregon and beyond since our modest beginnings in November 2021. I am grateful for all the communities who have invited us into their classrooms, community centers, casinos, and the countless other locations we have trained. No matter the location, setting, and or community, MI is about the people!  The countless tribal child welfare workers, behavioral health clinicians, substance abuse counselors, tribal prevention specialists, educators, police officers, and tribal leaders make our trainings and offerings special.

I am confident in saying that tribal personnel are the most thoughtful, giving, and dedicated ambassadors for the evolving practice of MI. I often find myself thinking about and referencing the numerous tribal personnel we’ve met along the way and their bits of wisdom shared during our trainings. Our project team and trainers are continuously reminded that our MI work is about the tribal communities and personnel we partner with daily. It is in the spirit of partnership, acceptance, empowerment, and compassion that our MI journey has built a foundation. Our team has been taught, instructed, honored, listened too, and made to feel like relatives in many instances.  Our shared spaces have provided us all an opportunity to learn together, where every person and voice is honored as a valuable member of this tribal MI community that were all building together. This MI community stretches from the tribal and aboriginal lands of Oregon Indian Country to the rolling hills and valleys of Iowa.


University of Iowa’s Native Center for Behavioral Health was awarded a contract through the Oregon Department of Human Services to assist tribal child welfare programs from the nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon learn and implement MI into practice. Through this contract, our team continues to offer Oregon’s tribal child welfare personnel the opportunity to learn and practice MI.  It is through the planning and development of MI in tribal communities in Oregon that we come to understand that it our goal is about the people.

We invite you to continue your MI journey in the hopes that we all can have an impact on the communities and people we love and serve.  

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