MHA Receives Provider Access Improvement Grant

SPRINGFIELD — The Mental Health Assoc. (MHA) was awarded a grant totaling $43,640.65 from the Provider Access Improvement Grant Program of MassHealth. As the name suggests, this grant is designed to improve access to health providers for clients covered by MassHealth.

The funds are helping MHA acquire technology enabling real-time language translation, adaptive technology for people with communication disabilities, equipment and software applications to enable and enhance provider/client interactions, and marketing and outreach to local communities in which English is not the primary language.

Kimberley Lee, vice president of Resource Development & Branding for MHA, called the grant a smart investment. “Moving forward, MHA will be able to make care for mental health, substance-use recovery and related services much more accessible to persons who face a language barrier, who are unable to speak, or who are limited in ability to express themselves. The equipment and applications we are acquiring are state-of-the-art in their respective market segments, which makes them an investment for the long term. What’s more, we will cut the cost of traditional translation services, which is considerable, while simultaneously improving access to care.”

The grant allows MHA to reach pockets of the local population who otherwise would go without the mental-health services they need simply because of a language barrier,” said Sara Kendall, vice president of Clinical Operations for MHA. “Technology will effectively remove that barrier, enabling our clinicians to promote better emotional health and wellness in the community. The need is acute, as there is a shortage of live interpreters. This shortage creates a waitlist for treatment and often inhibits our ability to provide real-time services in crisis situations. New devices acquired through this grant give us the benefit of immediacy. For example, new Jarvisen Instant Real Time Two Way voice systems enable real-time language translation between any of 60 supported languages. And LifeSize icon phones will enable video and audio calls and web conferences, making virtual collaboration easier and more effective.”

One technology made available by the grant will benefit residents of MHA’s New Way acquired brain-injury homes. “Speak for Yourself is an augmentative and alternative communication app developed by speech-language pathologists,” said Sara Kyser, vice president of MHA’s New Way Division, which provides programming for those affected by acquired brain injuries. “It turns an iPad into a communication device, giving a voice to adults who are not able to speak or are limited in their ability to express themselves verbally. Restrictions arising from COVID now mean that our New Way residents visit their primary-care physicians and specialist providers virtually, but computers in our residences were not equipped with cameras. This grant allows us to add appropriate cameras, increasing access to care for our residents.”

Lee added that “funding for technology like this is hard to come by in any environment. In the midst of a pandemic, when businesses and foundations are themselves being stretched, it’s incredible that MHA can make these much needed purchases with funding we otherwise would not have. We are extremely grateful for this grant and the opportunity to improve access to care for those we serve.”