CHD’s Melissa Porter Honored with Award from Association for Behavioral Healthcare

Melissa Porter, MS, Program Director of CHD’s Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS) for Holyoke and Chicopee, was honored by the Association for Behavioral Healthcare (ABH) with an award presented at the ABH Salute to Excellence on Friday October 20, 2017, in Newton, MA. ABH is a consortium of behavioral healthcare providers from across Massachusetts. CHD is a member of ABH.

Porter holds a Master Science in Psychiatric Rehabilitation from Boston University and is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. She has 30 years of experience in the field of human services, including work in residential settings, directing a community clubhouse, managing a substance abuse residential program for women, and managing an outpatient clinic. Currently she directs CHD’s program of Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS) for Holyoke and Chicopee, which supports adults with chronic and persistent mental illness to be successful in the community.

“We are extremely proud that Melissa has been recognized for excellence by the Association for Behavioral Healthcare,” said Jim Goodwin, President and CEO of CHD. “Her record of service to adults with mental health and addiction challenges reflects her professional commitment and personal passion to helping people live better lives. I think it is telling that Melissa was nominated for this award by a member of her own staff. When staff members feel confident in their leadership, that reflects well on an organization. CHD was voted Best Place to Work in Reader Raves 2018, and I think Melissa’s award reveals the comradery and respect that is shared by members of our staff.”

As a CBFS program director, Porter oversees wraparound services for a large population of adults who are referred through the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. “We serve close to 300 individuals living in the Holyoke/Chicopee community, with clients as young as 21 and as old as 93,” said Porter. “Those people receive help with housing, vocational and psychiatric services through clinics, crisis intervention, substance abuse services, employment, community-based leisure activities and more, all based on individual needs. We could have somebody who comes in already living in the community, who has had hospitalization in the past but is stable, works, maybe even has a car, but needs weekly outreach services. We may also get a referral for someone who is homeless, actively using drugs and alcohol, has explosive relationships with family and friends, and is unemployable. There’s a huge breadth of who we serve and why, and we serve each person to address their individual needs.”

To provide an example of how her work impacts lives, Porter shared the story of an older gentleman named Bob, a client that CHD has worked with for nearly 20 years. “Bob had persistent mental illness and we provided a range of support to help keep him stable and live as independently as possible,” Porter explained. “He lived with his aunt in the family home in Holyoke, and he’d lived there for so long it was the only home he ever really knew. When his aunt passed away, we had to consider Bob’s living arrangements going forward. The path of least resistance would be to place him in a group home, but with someone so fragile, such a change could send him into a crisis. And besides, our client-focused philosophy means we do what the client wants, as much as that’s practical. So we asked Bob what he wanted and he said he wanted to stay. We helped him as he sorted through things and gave him control over some of that, and we even were able to employ some CBFS clients to help with interior painting. It all took time and support, but ultimately Bob went through the transition pretty successfully. He’s happy where he is, and that’s most important.”

With three decades in the field of human service, Porter offered some seasoned advice for people considering working in the field or looking for greener pastures. “Find a good organization that shares your own vision for what it means to serve others,” she said. “If it’s a place where lots of the staff have worked there for years, I think it’s revealing. There has been a push for human service providers to move to a more corporate way of doing business, which I can see because you have to sustain services. But you can still find organizations that continue the grass-roots, human quality of doing rehabilitation in relaxed, community-based ways that are real.  I think that is what we strive to do at CHD. For those who preceded me in this organization, that was important to them, so I want to continue to focus on things that speak to the mission and work for the people we serve.”

The Association for Behavioral Health has over 80 member organizations providing mental health and addiction treatment across Massachusetts. The organization’s members employ 46,500 people, serve 1.5 million Massachusetts residents annually, and work directly with policy makers to expand access to community treatment.

Founded in 1972, Center for Human Development (CHD) is a nonprofit, CARF-accredited organization providing a broad range of high quality, community-oriented human services to 17,000 children, adolescents, adults, and families each year. The organization is dedicated to promoting, enhancing and protecting the dignity and welfare of people in need.

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