MHA Launches New Initiative to Support Employee Need

SPRINGFIELD — A new initiative called MHA Cares has been launched by the Mental Health Assoc. to help employees connect with needed community resources.

Issues like food or housing insecurity may fall outside employee-assistance programs, but are becoming all-too-common experiences of daily life. Workers in fields like direct care — many of whom MHA employs through state contracts in its work with the mentally ill and developmentally disabled — can be especially vulnerable to such stresses as hourly wages may be above the minimum but well below an estimated living wage for a family.

Kimberely Lee, MHA’s vice president of Resource Development and Branding, said the nonprofit’s new initiative offers access to a coordinator three days a week to help employees connect with resources in the community that can help with issues like eviction notices, access to day care, or concerns around an intimate relationship.

“We want people to come to work without worry,” Lee said. “We want them to come to work knowing that their employer cares and we stand behind them, ready to help. We may not be able to help them with every situation, but if we can’t help them, we certainly want to find those entities that can.”

Lee said the initiative is free and confidential and coordinated through human resources and MHA’s BestLife Emotional Health & Wellness Center, and stressed that it is not a traditional employee-assistance program.

“What differentiates the MHA Cares initiative from an employee-assistance program is the way in which it helps. It can be a phone call, a personal conversation, whatever it takes to help employees she explained said. “It also makes full use of the fact that, as a nonprofit serving the needs of our clients, we are well aware of such resources.”

Lee added, “if we begin to see common threads or themes in our MHA Cares initiative, many employees concerned about housing or inadequate child care, then we can begin to look at that data and what else we could be doing that is very specific to these needs that have been brought to our attention.”

The MHA Cares coordinator is Victoria Brown, a social-work intern and master’s-degree candidate at Westfield State University. She will be available to employees Wednesdays from noon to 5 p.m. and Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the BestLife clinic, 153 Magazine St., Springfield.