HCN News & Notes

MHA Honors National Disability Awareness Month

SPRINGFIELD — Mental Health Assoc. Inc. (MHA) is honoring National Disability Awareness Month, which seeks to provide understanding, encouragement, and opportunities to help those with disabilities lead productive and fulfilling lives.

Starting in the 1960s, MHA’s groundbreaking efforts to transition people away from institutional living to life in the community became a model for the deinstitutionalization movement. MHA serves individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities through permanent residences, emergency respite services, supported living, and shared-living programs.

Tara Kurtz-Boucher, vice president of Integration and Community Living at MHA, noted that “each person we serve is supported and encouraged to enjoy everyday community experiences and pursue interests and activities guided by personal choice. These individuals have unique interests, needs, and wishes. We do our best, every day, to honor each person’s individuality in ways that are meaningful to them.”

MHA manages 12 Integration and Community Living community residences, which are permanent homes for individuals requiring support with daily living. MHA also operates one respite program designed to offer temporary residential support to individuals who are experiencing a difficult transition in their personal lives, such as the loss of a primary caretaker, leaving an abusive relationship, or homelessness. MHA also works with individuals who live independently but require support designed to increase self-reliance.

“At MHA, we realize that no two individuals we serve are the same,” Kurtz-Boucher said. “Because of this, we offer a diverse range of supports to meet the needs of the individuals in our care. Community residences and supported-living programs meet the specific needs of some, but not everyone. In the spirit of reducing barriers to care, MHA also offers shared-living programming for individualized and personalized support within a family home.”

Shared living is an alternative to a 24-hour group home for adults receiving services through the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS). Shared-living providers receive income while welcoming an individual into their stable and caring home environment to provide appropriate care. Providers include single parents, retirees, widows and widowers — anyone with room in their heart and their home to share all that life has to offer.

“If you can actively embrace a person with developmental disabilities as part of your own family, that’s a good start,” Kurtz-Boucher said. “You must become that person’s friend, teacher, and advocate. A good match is critical, and helping to make that match is among the many services provided by MHA.”

MHA is actively looking for shared-living providers in Hampden County. Being a shared-living provider is a long-term commitment by which providers make a life-changing difference for someone in need. For more information, email MHA’s Shared Living Program supervisor at sharedliving@mhainc.org.