ServiceNet’s Brain Injury Services and Two Area Academic Institutions Awarded a “Collaboration in Healthcare” 2022 Healthcare Heroes Award 

ServiceNet, Springfield College, and the University of Massachusetts were recently presented with a 2022 Healthcare Heroes Award by BusinessWest and Healthcare News in the category of Collaboration in Healthcare for providing outstanding rehabilitative care while helping train the health care professionals of tomorrow.  

Their collaboration began in 2014 through ServiceNet’s Enrichment Center in Chicopee, a day program for adults with brain injury caused by trauma or medical conditions. Enrichment Center Director Ellen Werner reached out to leaders of the Physical Therapy (PT) program at Springfield College to propose a collaboration. Together, they developed an innovative model of community-based care that would bring in PT students to work with clients under the direction of their instructors, who would also serve as on-site clinicians.    

Students in the Springfield College PT program spend every semester for two years working at the center as part of an integrated learning model, with their clinical instructors also serving as Enrichment Center staff.  

“One of the great things about this collaboration is that students get to see the clients grow and change over an extended period, even as they are growing themselves,” says Kathy Pappas, associate professor of human anatomy at Springfield College and one of the two on-site clinical instructors. “A PT is someone who sees the person as a whole and not just one part, and this program allows our students the time and experience to understand each client as a whole person and see them fully.”     

The collaborative model with Springfield College was so successful for both the center’s participants and the students that Werner reached out to UMass Amherst to do similar work in speech pathology.    

In 2018, ServiceNet partnered with UMass Amherst’s School of Public Health & Health Sciences to build the relationship between communications disorders master’s students with a track in speech pathology and the Enrichment Center. In this partnership, UMass provides speech-language pathology services at the Enrichment Center through graduate students working under the supervision of three clinical speech pathologists from UMass.    

The speech pathology clinicians and students visit the Enrichment Center twice a week for one semester. The students do various individual sessions with clients, lead the morning meetings with the group, or do other group activities such as cognitive-linguistic activities or cooking.    

“I think this unique partnership is a win-win all around,” says Michael Starr, one of the three faculty from UMass who also serves as a clinical supervisor for the students. “The clients here benefit from these students who are passionate and eager for experience and excited to be here. And the students get to work with some of the most fantastic clients they’re ever going to meet in their education. It’s an amazing experience for everyone, and I believe the students leave better and more empathetic clinicians because of their time here.”   

Werner, for her part, couldn’t agree more.    

“With their energy and enthusiasm, the students and clinical supervisors add so much to the program,” says Werner. “For our participants, having more people who care introduced into their lives that can do something different with them is so important to the quality of experience they have every day. It’s been a truly amazing collaboration.”   

The programs have also expanded to include ServiceNet’s newer Strive Clinic in Holyoke. The Strive Clinic is designed specifically for participants who prefer a limited contact/by-appointment-only option rather than the Enrichment Center’s full-day program. Occupational Therapy (OT) students from Springfield College also complete internships at the Enrichment Center and Strive Clinic, though their instructors are not on site. 

ServiceNet is an innovative mental health and human services non-profit agency based in Northampton, Massachusetts. Its mission is to “provide people with effective support, treatments, and strategies so they may live their lives to the fullest.” ServiceNet works with people who are living with mental health challenges, developmental delay/disability or autism, brain injury, substance use disorders, or homelessness. 

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