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REACH Article from Daily Hampshire Gazette

posted Jun 21, 2017, 2:08 PM by Andrew Drewnowski   [ updated Jun 21, 2017, 2:09 PM ]



MONDAY, JUNE 12, 2017

After a difficult pregnancy three years ago, Thalia Ghazey-Bates of Northampton gave birth to her twins two months early. When the babies were finally able to come home, she and her husband had to be on high alert: Sometimes they would stop breathing.

Basic care, like nursing also was a challenge. When her husband wasn’t at home, she’d hold one baby to her breast while the other sat in a car seat, which she would rock with her foot.

With a 3-year old needing attention, too, there were few breaks, and lots of questions. But Maggie Krone, a developmental specialist from REACH, a state-funded early intervention program, was there at least two hours per week to lend a hand and ensure the infants were developing on track.

“It is like having an aunt or an uncle or a grandparent who is professionally trained,” said Ghazey-Bates.

REACH, run through the western Massachusetts human service organization ServiceNet, helps parents of children — from birth to age 3 — who have developmental delays or may be susceptible to them. The services are covered by most insurance plans, including MassHealth and parents are never asked to pay out of pocket, says Amy Swisher, vice president of community relations at ServiceNet. What insurance won’t cover it, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health fills in, she says.

At first, Krone was there to hold a baby or give Thalia emotional support when her husband, Spencer Ghazey-Bates, was at work.  Sometimes she would read to the oldest child.

As the babies, Lilliah and Ryland, grew, Krone would play with them, teaching them words and other social skills, a boost Ryland seemed to need more than Lilliah, says Ghazey-Bates. When it seemed that Ryland was lagging behind in gross motor skills, too, a physical therapist began visiting, to work on strengthen his core muscles to help him crawl and then walk.


At around age 1, Ryland started having episodes where he would seem to space out, and it was another REACH developmental specialist, Lisa Musante, who sensed something was wrong. She encouraged the parents to consult a neurologist, which resulted in a epilepsy diagnosis. Ryland now takes medication to control his seizures.

“Without REACH I don’t think we would have been able to manage their needs as well,” Ghazey-Bates said.

Early involvement

 The goal of the REACH program is to catch developmental delays early. It’s a service that’s been supporting families for 40 years with a team that now numbers 70 professionals. Developmental specialists do an initial assessment to understand the child’s needs. From there, occupational, physical and speech therapies are planned and social workers are available to answer parents’ questions. 

REACH is providing assistance to 580 children in Hampshire and Franklin Counties and the North Quabbin area.

When a child is born prematurely — or with a condition such as Down syndrome in which delays are expected — parents are matched at the hospital with a REACH specialist or a team to guide them through the first months or years of the child’s life.

“If a child has a delay, the sooner we can intervene, the better,” Musante said.

Sometimes the connection comes later when a parent thinks their child is struggling or a pediatrician notices that a baby is not crawling or talking like he or she should be.


Working through play

That’s how Gohan Holzhauer Page of Northampton, a quiet 2-year-old, got connected to REACH.

“His doctor thought that he was behind the speech curve,” said his father, Jason Page, “so the REACH people came and did and evaluation and we went from there.”

Page says having a developmental specialist come to the family’s home regularly has been a big help as he doesn’t have a car.

“They bring a ton of toys for him to play with,” he said.

Gohan language skills have shown signs of improvement, said his mother, Mariah Holzhauer. 

“He didn’t really speak before. Now, he will ask for juice when he wants it,” she says.  “He has been doing a lot better.” 

Father and son were are at a REACH play group in Amherst on a recent Tuesday morning where about a dozen children, each with a parent or caregiver, were busy with a variety of activities. Some were playing on a wooden slide, others were pretend cooking in a mini kitchen. The walls were covered in finger paintings. 

The two-hour play group meets twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The children, all of whom have been individually evaluated by REACH staff and have set goals, are working on a range of difficulties from motor and speech delays to social skills.

The session is a combination of free and structured time.

Though it looks like play, all of the activities have a purpose, Musante says. For example they may encourage the children to use language, imitate an action or even just learn to focus their attention.

During circle time, when all the kids and parents are seated on the floor, Musante hands out yellow rubber ducks: “Put the duck on your head on your head,” she sings, “put your duck on your chin on your chin…”

Gohan, sitting in his dad’s lap, follows along, as do the other children. 

“This program’s been good – we are really blessed,” says Michelle Vigeant later, who is there with her 2½-year-old son Gabriel. He is jumping up and down on a foam play structure with a group of kids as she talks. She says she connected with REACH in January over her concern that Gabriel seemed uninterested in other children.

She has seen a big change in him since. He has been sleeping better at night, she says, and plays well with the other children. “He has been blossoming socially,” Vigeant said.

The Ghazey-Bates family also found much needed community support in this play group during the first years of their twins’ lives. Their older son, Robby, who was an excessively shy 2-year old, also played here during a six-month stint in the REACH program. 

“It was just really reassuring to see all the different people working with their own set of circumstances,” Thalia Ghazey-Bates said. “It gave you a sense of community and often when there is a disability in the family, your community feels small.”

 The next steps

Before children in the program turn 3, REACH social workers and developmental specialists work with them and their families to determine whether they will need an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), an outline of extra educational supports, when they begin school. 

Lilliah Ghazey-Bates didn’t need one, but Ryland has a plan in place when he starts preschool at Bridge Street Elementary School in Northampton in the fall. It outlines safety precautions for his epilepsy — he will need someone with him when he goes up and down stairs — and speech therapy, to continue working on his pronunciation and vocabulary.

Mostly, Ryland has caught up to his sister, Ghazey-Bates says. They are rambunctious 3-year-olds who enjoy playing tag and drawing together. In addition to making gains in his speech, Ryland now can take off his shoes without help from his mother, she says, and walk all the way to the YMCA, a few minute walk from his house, without getting tired, thanks to his strengthened muscles.

REACH, Ghazey-Bates says, has had a deep impact on her family.

“It takes a village to raise a child – having a professionally trained village is really nice.”

Lisa Spear can be reached at Lspear@gazettenet.com.


Moving away from Gmail to a common Microsoft email platform

posted May 31, 2017, 12:25 PM by Ruth Randall   [ updated May 31, 2017, 12:28 PM ]

We will be making changes to the overall ServiceNet email system in the coming weeks and months, with the ultimate goal of moving all email to a common Microsoft platform. This means that over time, we will be phasing out Gmail as a method of ServiceNet email.

We will no longer be creating new Gmail accounts for new staff, regardless of if they are regular staff or relief. Starting tomorrow, June 1st, they will all be assigned a standard Outlook email account going forward. This means that some of your staff (hired before June 1st 2017) may still be utilizing Gmail to access their email, while staff hired after June 1st 2017 will log in using the Outlook Web client to access their email.

Please feel free to reach out to us in the IT department with any questions or concerns.

Jackie Doyle Receives the 2017 Judge Frank Freedman Community First Award

posted May 12, 2017, 7:39 AM by Andrew Drewnowski

Jacquelyn Doyle of Greenfield, who works for our Community Based Flexible Services (CBFS) Outreach program, has received the 2017 Judge Frank Freedman Community First Award. Congratulations Ms. Doyle!

Freedman, who died in 2003, was considered one of the most devoted justices of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. His service in the court began in 1972, when he was appointed by Richard Nixon.

The judge was respected by his colleagues as a learned, conscientious man, devoted to the bench. He was also kind and compassionate.

One of his most memorable cases was Brewster v. Dukakis. He presided over the lawsuit heard in western Massachusetts to obtain community-based services for people with mental health challenges. The resulting decree asserted the right of individuals to receive care and services in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their needs.

Nominees for the award work collaboratively and respectfully with service recipients and co-workers. They are mindful of the humanity shared by those served and those serving, insure that people determine their own recovery path and more.

Doyle received the award because she  recognizes and values the strengths, needs, preferences, experiences and cultural backgrounds of those being served.  She advocates for people in recovery making sure they get all the services they need  including housing,  employment, education and community connection

Gus Ramirez Takes on Climate Control

posted May 3, 2017, 2:04 PM by Andrew Drewnowski

Gus Ramirez, Program Director of Developmental and Brain Injury Services' (DBIS) Henry St program, traveled to Washington, D.C. this past weekend to march for Climate Change.  He was lucky enough to bump into our very own U.S. Senator Ed Markey and get a photo with him.  Great work Gus! 

Parking Lot Closed Friday, May 5th

posted May 1, 2017, 9:45 AM by Andrew Drewnowski

We want to make everyone aware that the parking lot out back of 50 Pleasant Street will be closed and not accessible on Friday May 5th. It will re-open on Saturday May 6th at noon.

The Northampton Chamber of Commerce is having their annual fundraising auction on Friday evening and will be setting up all day Friday.

Please plan accordingly if you are coming to the clinic that day.

You will be allowed to walk thru the parking lot but not drive in.

Sorry for the inconvenience

-Sherri Fuller

Valley Gives is next Tuesday, May 2nd .... spread the word!

posted Apr 27, 2017, 1:52 PM by Andrew Drewnowski

ServiceNet is participating in Valley Gives again this year! Valley Gives is our local Giving Tuesday. Please forward the information to friends and family and share on Facebook and other social media!https://valley-gives.org/designee/servicenet-inc

Congratulations to Shawn Robinson, honored by Business West as a member of the 40 Under Forty Class of 2017

posted Apr 19, 2017, 10:41 AM by Andrew Drewnowski

Shawn Robinson was 12 years old when he walked by a music festival in a park and was recruited into the Berkshire Coalition to Prevent Pregnancy.

At age 15, he wrote an application for and won a grant from the United Way to launch a free Culture Camp for kids that he ran with his peers, and a year later he was named to the Berkshire Coalition board of directors.

Robinson was exposed to people with diverse abilities throughout his youth because his parents worked for the Department of Developmental Services, and clients shared Thanksgiving and overnight stays with them. Those experiences, combined with parental values and his involvement in church, Boy Scouts, youth groups, and two missionary trips to Haiti during high school and college, fueled his passion to help others.

“I’ve always had a deep sense of wanting to make a difference,” he told BusinessWest. “I want to do anything I can to help the community, and often find myself getting involved in things without thinking, although I try to serve on only three boards at a time.”

Robinson and his wife, Jill, are parents to Sofia, 6, and Jake, 3, and he has volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County since 2008. He co-founded the Pioneer Valley chapter of Young Democrats, and served as president and was named Massachusetts Young Democrat of the Year in 2010.

In 2011, ServiceNet asked him to develop a program to improve client health outcomes through fresh-air and outdoor work. He spent a year working with a disabled man who lived in a house in Hatfield with plenty of acreage, and they converted the property into Prospect Meadow Farm.

Today, it employs 70 people with developmental disabilities, autism, or brain injuries who raise chickens, sell eggs, manage one of the state’s largest log-grown shiitake-mushroom operations, build and sell wood products, and operate catering and community landscaping services.

Robinson is president of the board of Highland Valley Elder Services and serves on the Ethics Committee at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, the town of Hatfield Finance Committee, the town’s Mental Health Awareness Committee and Council on Aging, and ServiceNet’s Diversity Committee. He has received awards from United Way of Hampshire County and the Mass. Department of Developmental Services. And he’s not slowing down.

“In the next few years,” he said, “I will look at new ways of engaging in the community.”

—Written by Kathleen Mitchell, Business West Staff Writer


posted Apr 6, 2017, 9:44 AM by Andrew Drewnowski   [ updated Apr 6, 2017, 10:09 AM ]


West Boylston Enrichment Center Open House 4/13

posted Mar 29, 2017, 1:41 PM by Andrew Drewnowski

Hometown Hero Award presented to Daniel Clifford

posted Mar 21, 2017, 9:47 AM by Andrew Drewnowski

Daniel Clifford, a resident of Amherst who lives at one of ServiceNet’s group homes, was recognized by the American Red Cross of Western Massachusetts for his heroic use of the Heimlich maneuver to save the life of program director, Gus Ramirez.  Clifford took a first aid class ten years ago, and when Ramirez started choking, he immediately sprang into action.  “It made me feel good, I felt like I did what I needed to do,” said Clifford.  The award was presented by Hali Dunn, of Eversource, at the annual Hometown Heroes breakfast on Friday, March 17th in Springfield.  


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