SPRINGFIELD –  Mental Health Association, Inc. (MHA) is honoring National Disability Awareness Month. National Disability Awareness Month seeks to provide understanding, encouragement, and opportunities to help persons with disabilities to lead productive and fulfilling lives. Starting in the 1960s, MHA’s groundbreaking efforts to transition people away from institutional living to life in our 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 stated, “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. 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.” Kurtz-Boucher said. 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/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. 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” said Kurtz-Boucher.


MHA is actively looking for Shared Living providers in Hampden County. Being a Shared Living provider is a long-term commitment where providers make a life-changing difference for someone in need. For more information, please get in touch with MHA’s Shared Living Program Supervisor at sharedliving@mhainc.org