MSUB Alumni selected as 2016 40 Under Forty

Erin Rodriguez

BS Human Services 2007

director of court services, Rimrock Foundation


Erin Rodriguez

Treatment courts help people turn their lives around.


Erin Unruh Rodriguez, director of court services at Rimrock, the region’s largest addiction center, has witnessed numerous success stories shared by people who have successfully completed treatment court.


“Drug courts (also known as treatment courts) work really well for people for whom regular treatment alone isn’t enough,” she said. 


Rodriguez has degrees in chemical dependency counseling and health and human services rehabilitation. This spring she will complete a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Montana State University Billings.


“I have been a part of these courts since their inception, working initially as a counselor providing direct service and gradually worked my way into my current position as director of Court Services," she said.


Rodriquez started working at Rimrock as an intern in 2007 as part of her undergraduate program.


“I realized very quickly that Rimrock is the place I wanted to spend my career. I started working within the drug court and with jail-based treatment within months of being hired,” she said.


“I could identify with so many aspects I came into contact with. I started to see the light in the clients’ eyes as life started to fall into place for them.


What’s the biggest challenge you face in your job? I love being a counselor and enjoy working with different personalities and conducting addiction focus groups. My biggest challenge comes from moving into administration. As I have moved up the ladder, my focus became growing the skillsets of new, incoming counselors and building future leaders.


The challenge comes from watching from the sidelines as the new counselors take on the direct patient care while I focus more on program growth and development,” she said. “I miss the feeling of watching a client’s face when they finally realize that there is more to life than their addiction and that their past does not define them.


What's the best business advice you have received? “I know you are busy, but just remember, No matter where you’re at, be there. Allow yourself to be in the moment and actively listen.” This advice helped me so significantly because like many business professionals, we are all multitaskers."


Who gave you that advice? Coralee Goni, COO of Rimrock.


Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Decrease the stigma of offenders in recovery. People need a chance and we have an opportunity to grow good people.


Outside of work, my biggest passion is: Being a mom, actually being involved and showing my children what a family is and how to love. I love being involved in my kids’ activities. I am a dancer at heart and performed jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, and lyrical for almost 18 years, so now I live vicariously through my daughter and our dance family at TDF studio. 


Which living person do you most admire? I cannot say that I admire one living person the most. I admire the people who have struggled, and made it. The survivors, the hard workers, the spiritually fit ones who think of others, live with integrity, and shine with forgiveness.


Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? By the number of people who I get to see change their lives. It is measured by the people who open up their hearts and let the pain go. It is measured by the ones who stay sober and the ones who get their children back. Success in my field is never about money.


What do you consider your greatest achievement? I was a teen mom who dropped out of high school my senior year with only 1.5 credits left to graduate. Life had gotten very difficult and I felt like I had no support. My parents divorced when I was in kindergarten. We struggled and moved around a lot before high school. I was in the wrong crowd and was never expected to make anything out of myself. Life was an uncaring and confusing place to me. I woke up one day and I had a fire in my heart…I fought hard. I obtained my GED and went to college. I graduated with cum laude honors and obtained two undergraduate degrees. I raised my family as a single mother, I went to college, and I worked to support my family. 


I’m happiest when I’m… with my children, husband, and family. 


»» Find out how a bachelor's in human services can help your career flourish.


Article & Photo credits: Billings Gazette

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