DBIS Senior Director of Operations Michael Lalak on Rewards of Doing What’s Best for Those Around Us

Michael Lalak discovered his passion for human services while still in college, but it wasn’t the career path he’d planned for. During a summer break, he worked at a camp for children with autism set up through the local school district. He quickly fell in love with the work. Mike’s experience fundamentally changed his trajectory from marketing, which he was studying in college, to human services. After graduating, he worked in several human services areas, including residential group homes with the Department of Children & Families (DCF) and adult developmental services at Providence Hospital.   

Mike first came to ServiceNet in 2012 as a Program Director, overseeing a group home in the Developmental and Brain Injury Services (DBIS) division. He has since risen to become a Senior Director of Operations in DBIS, overseeing 56 current residential programs plus two more that will be opening this spring.  

One of the things Mike enjoys most about working in residential programs is the ability to connect with individuals on a deeper level, spending time with them and becoming a valuable part of their daily lives. And even as his job responsibilities have grown, he still sees residents as much as possible.  

“What I love about this work is that group residences are a person’s home, and you are an important part of their life,” Mike says. “Our work is about making sure residents are safe, while also supporting what the residents themselves want to do in their daily lives, creating opportunities for growth and change. This makes every day unique and meaningful.”  

The DBIS team also works hard to ensure residents can socialize and meet folks from the other residences to help build up larger social networks. The team throws several major events throughout the year, and it isn’t uncommon to spot Mike grilling burgers at the DBIS summer barbeque or visiting a resident just to say hello and catch up. He’s also involved in mentoring new program directors and staff and working with the DBIS team as new houses open.   

“We have an extraordinary team,” Mike says. “And I think the biggest thing with mentoring new staff is helping support and educate them, not only in their role, but in how their role impacts so many other service areas and how it affects the individual. People think direct care workers are babysitters, but they aren’t. They are professional caregivers, and their work greatly impacts the lives of those they work with.”   

Mike also works as a mental health counselor in the Hampden County jail system’s emergency stabilization unit. For Mike, this direct support role and his role at ServiceNet give him the energy and drive to continue to make a difference.   

“This work takes time, commitment, and effort, and this isn’t a job that ever stops,” Mike says. “But we are better ourselves by doing what’s best for those around us.” 

Interested in employment within our diverse network of mental health and human service programs throughout western Massachusetts? See our current job openings and apply today.

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