In This Edition:
- Grant Success! The Weight and Seating Independence Project is Funded
- Coming Soon! An AT Regional Center for Central Mass
- No Wrong Door for AT
- Register Now: EdCampAccess Boston is April 8th
- MassMATCH 2016 Annual Report Snapshot
- REquipment Welcomes Jennifer Baker
- REquipment Highlights
- Get AT Stuff Highlights
- Upcoming Events (opens the MassMATCH Events page)
Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission Receives Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Grant to Serve Persons with Paralysis
MassMATCH is pleased to announce that our recent proposal for a Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation "High Impact Innovative Technology Assistance Grant" is funded. The Reeve Foundation is providing its maximum allocation, $75,000, for the MassMATCH Weight and Seating Independence Project, a 2017 initiative that will create access to wheelchair accessible scales and digital pressure mapping technology for persons with paralysis in central and western Massachusetts.
"We are delighted to have our proposal so well received," says MassMATCH Program Coordinator Kobena Bonney. "Our research shows an alarming lack of access to this essential equipment in these regions. This funding means individuals with paralysis will be able to take charge of their own health in an important and elemental way."
The MassMATCH project is unique for its consumer-directed approach and emphasis on tried-and-true technology. "Innovative Technology" for persons with paralysis can bring to mind new hi-tech devices like robotic arms and exoskeletons. "But we held focus groups to learn about needs and interests, and while many ideas were discussed, a frustration surfaced in Worcester and Pittsfield that required our attention," Bonney explains. "Worcester participants told us their doctors had no way to weigh them. We heard stories of trips to the post office and UPS for their industrial scales. One Pittsfield man weighs himself at the local scrap metal yard for help monitoring his diabetes."
With Reeve Foundation support, MassMATCH will install roll-on scales in Independent Living Centers in Worcester, Springfield, Amherst, and Pittsfield. Additional portable scales will be available for short-term use at home from the MassMATCH AT Regional Center in Pittsfield and the soon-to-be-opened ATRC in Worcester. The initiative will also purchase digital pressure mapping technology for use by individuals with paralysis, their families, caregivers and home-health providers. Bonney says focus group members also spoke up about their vulnerability to pressure sores and the loss of quality of life they cause.
"Seating evaluations should include digital pressure mapping to provide information about positioning and inform equipment needs. Yet our research shows that even people treated for pressure ulcers in these regions rarely have access to the mapping technology that can help prevent a recurrence."
The equipment will be available through the MassMATCH short-term equipment loan program and demonstrations and trainings will be provided to the public with the intent to build the region's capacity with the new technology.
"We look forward to working with our partners in the coming months and getting this equipment into the community as soon as possible," Bonney says.
MassMATCH is a program of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission; it is funded by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation is a private foundation dedicated to advancing quality of life and discovering cures for spinal cord injury through innovative research, grants, information and advocacy.
For 10 years MassMATCH has funded two Assistive Technology Regional Centers (ATRCs) to serve Massachusetts: a center in Pittsfield operated by United Cerebral Palsy-Berkshire, and a center in Boston operated by Easter Seals-MA. Coming this fall is a long-awaited expansion, a new ATRC in Worcester housed and operated by Easter Seals-MA at their current downtown offices.
Funding an ATRC to specifically serve central Massachusetts has been a MassMATCH long-term goal since MRC first began managing the statewide AT Act program in 2007. "Initially we had start-up funds for Boston and Pittsfield only, but with new support from the legislature last year, we were able to designate funds for this much-needed expansion," notes Ann Shor, MRC's Director of Independent Living and Assistive Technology.
Eric Oddleifson is Easter Seals's Assistant Vice President of Assistive Technology and Community Support Services. He says the new ATRC just makes logical good sense. "In 2016, the Boston ATRC served 100 clients from Worcester County, without any targeted outreach to the area." Easter Seals, meanwhile, has the space to expand in Worcester for AT demonstrations and device loan services.
Shor agrees. "Worcester has been a part of UCP-Berkshire's catchment area, but it's clear many residents find traveling to Pittsfield is too far," she says. "The new ATRC will more easily serve people from Worcester and Middlesex counties and neighboring towns. We look forward to welcoming AT users, families, and community organizations to the new AT center very soon."
The Worcester ATRC is slated to open by October to provide demonstrations of a range of assistive technology and short-term device loans. "But we hope to augment state funding," Oddleifson says, "with support from private donors and businesses and become a central Massachusetts AT training center as well. It should be a place that can inspire visitors about what is possible with technology."
Oddleifson's plans include growing the center through new partnerships and local engagement with areas colleges, businesses, and elder service organizations. Already there is local enthusiasm from Senator Chandler.
"We're optimistic we have friends who can help us make this happen," he says.
March 6th launched the first of what will be two series of trainings on assistive technology geared to providers of community-based services for people with disabilities and elders. MassMATCH is teaming with the Executive Office of Elder Affairs to train staff members from a range of community-based organizations about assistive technology (AT), AT services and AT funding options that may benefit the seniors and persons with disabilities they serve. The goal is ensuring that seniors and persons with disabilities find help and direction no matter which agency they turn to first.
The trainings are funded by the federal Administration for Community Living as part of ACL's effort to support the creation of a "No Wrong Door" system of long-term support services. Marylouise Gamache is the Aging and Disability Resource Consortia (ADRC) Coordinator for the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and is helping to organize the Massachusetts initiative.
"These build on trainings we undertook last year to promote a person-centered approach to services," she says. "Assistive technology can help people achieve the goals they identify when they come to see us, which are often about maintaining independence and remaining in their homes and community."
This first "basic" training was held at Easter Seals in Boston where MassMATCH supports an Assistive Technology Regional Center. 26 participants attended, including representatives from United Cerebral Palsy in eastern Mass., Housing Authority staff, Community Action Program agencies, Councils on Aging, Independent Living Centers, Aging Services Access Points, and Veterans Service Officers.
"There's really two benefits to bringing regional service providers who work with elders and people with disabilities together for these trainings," Gamache reflects. "First there's the obvious advantage of learning about these AT programs and how our consumers can access equipment, services, and funding. But second is the advantage of bringing a regional services network together to get to know one another. So when an ADRC member agency is working with someone who is also a veteran, for example, we know who to call for help and collaboration."
Ten sessions of the "basics" training will be held in 2017 and 20 in 2018. "Basics" provides an overview of all the Mass Rehabilitation Commission AT programs that help individuals learn about and acquire technology.
Advanced trainings will also be held both this year and next. These will teach the use of the Transition Assistance to Community Living Environment (TACLE) assessment tool [link opens in a new window]. TACLE guides aging and disability support staff to identify challenges to independent living that may be addressed with assistive technology, and how to pursue those solutions.
“The Aging and Disabilities Resource Consortia has always impressed me with their forward-thinking approach to helping people with disabilities age-in-place," reports Jim Reynolds after attending the training in Boston. "The training was very informative and anyone who cares for older adults will benefit from learning about the No Wrong Door resource approach. It gave me a broad understanding of the range of devices available, the scope of accessible online resources, and the funding programs that make it possible.”
Gamache emphasizes the trainings are part of a positive systems-change effort. "People who come to us for services do not want to get shuffled between multiple offices. They need knowledgeable providers who can help address their self-identified issues. Assistive technology, AT services and supports offer an important approach. Often simple solutions can make a big difference toward maintaining independence."
It's time to get inspired! Once again MassMATCH is a Gold Sponsor for the "unconference" devoted to improving education for struggling learners (and often with the help of technology)
In the EdCamp tradition, EdCampAccess Boston is a day of participant-driven professional development. Educators, therapists, parents, students, and even technology developers come to Marshall Simmonds Middle School in Burlington to talk with one another. As an "unconference" the schedule grows organically from those who attend. Come ready to learn, listen and, if you want, lead! Here is the collaborative Padlet of offerings (opens in a new window) from the 2016 EdCampAccess to inspire your ideas.
EdCampAccess Boston is a great opportunity to find a blend of first-time attendees mixing with nationally-respected assistive technology specialists, thought-leaders and tech developers in a relaxed pressure-free environment--everyone motivated to make a difference. Stop by our table and say hi. We'll be happy to answer questions about MassMATCH programs. EdCamps are non commercial events, so you won't be confronted by assistive technology vendors (our table is easy to find).
Registration is free (so is the food!) and online at this EdCampAccess Boston wiki page (opens in a new window).
The MassMATCH 2016 Annual Report is now available for download. Thanks go out to our primary partner agencies: Easter Seals-MA, United Cerebral Palsy-Berkshire, and REquipment, Inc. for helping to improve the lives of persons with disabilities, families and seniors statewide with access to assistive technology (AT)! Here are highlights from our core services:
Device Demonstrations and Device Loans
AT demonstrations and device loans allow individuals to see, touch, and try assistive technology before committing to a purchase or for fulfilling a short-term equipment need. In 2016, MassMATCH provided 1,169 device loans to 618 individuals, and 155 device demonstrations to 237 individuals.
Financial Loan Program
MassMATCH helps persons with disabilities purchase AT devices and AT services by making financial loans accessible to people who may ordinarily be turned down.
During 2016, the Massachusetts AT Loan Program loaned $755,698 to 47 borrowers. 51% of applicants had annual incomes of $30,000 or less.
Long-Term Device Loan Program
MassMATCH provides long-term device loans to applicants who demonstrate a financial need. Devices are valued under $500 and may be kept for as long as they benefit their user. During 2016, the program provided equipment to 117 borrowers. Devices included hearing, vision and mobility aids, as well as computers and other devices for learning, cognition and development.
MassMATCH provides or supports several reuse programs that help keep AT and durable medical equipment in the hands of individuals who need it. During 2016, a total of 924 devices were reassigned and 30 devices were exchanged among the various MassMATCH-supported reuse initiatives. The REQuipment DME reuse initiative expanded statewide and now provides centers in Canton, Boston, Amherst, Worcester and Pittsfield.
Learn more (and read success stories!) in the 2016 Annual Report (opens in a new window).
This month REquipment, Inc. welcomed a new program director. Jennifer Baker, Ph.D. brings considerable experience with DME reuse to the new nonprofit in charge of the MassMATCH statewide initiative. Thirteen years ago, Baker helped get the DME reuse program at the New England AT center off the ground in Connecticut. She is also a certified Assistive Technology Professional and Aging-in-Place specialist with a doctorate in clinical psychology!
"I needed a new adventure," she tells MassMATCH Quarterly.
Karen Langley, REQ Executive Director, says Baker has hit the ground running. Already she has identified new training opportunities for staff and is analyzing program operations for greater efficiencies. Langley is delighted to hire a program director who is dedicated to a future expansion from DME to assistive technology reuse in the future. "There is such a need for all kinds of equipment; communication devices, computer access devices, hearing devices. Expensive equipment that insurance often is reluctant to cover or replace. We know we are just scratching the surface with medical equipment."
Baker knows seating and positioning for mobility equipment, but also home and workplace assessments for assistive technology from an OT and PT perspective.
"We are lucky to bring on board someone with this range of expertise who is also willing to roll up her sleeves and dig in," says Langley.
REquipment provides refurbished, gently-used medical equipment to adults, children and seniors throughout Massachusetts. Devices are provided free of charge. As of this writing, items available at the REquipment inventory include:
- 1 Transfer Bench with Back for an adult (Canton)
- Bed Rails for adults (Worcester)
- 1 Gait Trainer for an adult (Canton)
- 1 Gait Trainer for a child (Canton)
- 1 Activity Chair for a child (Worcester)
- 1 Activity Chair with Tray for a teen/small adult (Worcester)
- 2 Manual Lifts for adults (Canton and Worcester)
- 1 Manual Sling Lift for an adult (Canton)
- 2 Walkers for children (Canton)
- 1 Walker for an adult (Worcester)
- 2 Padded Shower/Tub Seats with Backs for adults (Worcester)
- 2 Rolling Shower Chairs (Worcester), one is for a teen.
- Shower/bath stools and chairs for adults (Worcester)
- 6 Standers for children or teen (Worcester)
- 14 Manual Wheelchairs, 1 high-back reclining, most tilt-in-space, 1 bariatric, 1 pediatric, 1 for small adult (Worcester, Pittsfield, Amherst)
- 5 Complex Power Wheelchairs for adults (Worcester)
- 2 Basic Power Wheelchairs for adults (Worcester)
Have equipment to donate? Learn more at this REquipment webpage.
The Assistive Technology Exchange in New England and New York is the "Craig's List" for AT. Currently there are dozens of items posted for sale or free.
As of this writing, GetATStuff highlights include:
- 3 Vision-related items, including a Freedom Scientific Focus 40 Braille Display for $800 OBO in Sudbury/Natick, MA
- 1 Hearing-related item: a Clarity JV35 Amplified Phone for FREE in Putney, VT
- 61 Mobility, Seating, and Positioning related items, including a U-Step Walker II for $200 OBO in Holliston, MA
- 69 Daily Living related items, including an alternating air mattress for best offer in Springfield, MA.
- 8 Environmental Adaptation related items including a like-new walk-in tub for $500 OBO in Mount Vernon, NY.
- 8 Transportation and Vehicle Modification related items, including a 2002 Ford Windstar minivan equipped with a hoist for wheelchair or scooter, excellent condition, $3,700 in Hadley, MA.
- 6 Computer-related items, including a PC Eye Go computer eye tracker for $995 in Brunswick, MA.