SPRINGFIELD, Ma – Sara Kyser, Vice President of MHA’s New Way Division for adult survivors of an acquired brain injury, calls the nonprofit’s award of a $63,000 Mass Health Provider Access Improvement Grant Program (PAIGP) “life changing.”

The grant will enable MHA to purchase additional equipment for those it serves who have a range of disabilities and enable them to more easily navigate appointments and other personal health care needs. Purchases include communication boards that enable those without speech to be able to advocate for themselves, as well as specialty scales to easily take individual weights; portable track and lift systems to assist wheelchair-bound individuals at health care appointments; automated external defibrillators for residents living with conditions like severe heart disease and wanting to avoid institutionalized care; voice-controlled smart speakers that can serve as reminders to people with memory issues and laptops with cameras for telehealth appointments.

“The use of these technologies will allow those we serve to access their health care in a far more robust way,” said Kyser. “Those who rely solely on wheelchairs to access their world are at a disadvantage when it comes to their health care needs. Specifically, nearly all doctor’s offices while required to be accessible, do not always have the equipment to transfer a person out of their wheelchair.” She added, “With the mobile track and lift, this will allow those we serve the freedom and dignity of getting their needs met in a safe manner.”

“With many of those MHA serves having limited access to technology, laptops purchased through the PAIGP grant will allow residents to access this care,” Kyser said. “Similarly, they can also access online support and software that can help to manage their health. MHA serves a wide spectrum of individuals, some of whom suffer from aphasia, a common disorder post stroke that makes speech difficult.”

With the speech-related equipment purchased with the PAIGP grant, an individual will now be able to advocate for themselves at medical appointments. They will be able to call in medicines to their pharmacy. Confirm appointments. This autonomy is life changing to those who have lost or never had their voice.

The PAIGP program, overseen by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and funded through Mass Health’s Section 1115 Demonstration program, is managed by Health Resources In Action, a nonprofit consulting organization. The program is for Mass Health Fee-For-Service Providers who may range from physicians to dentists to behavioral health and other specialists and who work in a setting other than a hospital or one owned by a hospital or hospital system. The program is designed to enable such providers to improve access to health care for the disabled, as well as individuals whose primary language is not English, and to have better outcomes.

Grants, which are awarded in cycles, allow providers to purchase specialized equipment for this population. PAIGP applicants may also now apply for funds for remote monitoring equipment and infection control components.

According to Kimberley Lee, MHA Vice President of Resource Development and Branding, “The goal of this grant is to ensure access to the highest quality health care for those in our care, most of whom have significant health challenges. The user-friendly equipment, technologies, as well as training for clients and staff will impact the interaction that occurs between health care providers and those we support. For people with severe physical disabilities that impact their ability to move, stand, or travel, this funding and the equipment we are purchasing will allow us to continually identify opportunities to improve and impact service delivery.”