Programs For People - Framingham, MA

Funding History

Programs For People's Framingham Day Hospital was started with a three-year federal grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and matching state funds from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH). Director Iris Carroll, hired the staff, renovated the first rented building and, together with the staff, developed the program. Shortly after the program's inception, Framingham Union Hospital opened a psychiatric unit utilizing Community Mental Health Center (CMHC) federal funds, and in so doing designated Framingham Day Hospital as the psychiatric day treatment program for the resulting "Community Mental Health Center," (CMHC) which consisted of Framingham Union's new unit plus a group of existing local mental health agencies of which Framingham Day Hospital was one. As a result, Framingham Day Hospital was now open to clients from the community-at-large.

However, in becoming part of the CMHC, Framingham Day Hospital did not receive any additional funds and, in fact, almost lost all of its remaining federal funds due to a regulation that did not allow the program to be part of a CMHC and continue to receive its NIMH grant. The problem was resolved when the staff sought the help of Congressman Robert Drinan, who came to the aid of the program and became a personal friend and advocate for a number of years.

During the third year of the NIMH grant (FY'75) state budget cuts to human services occurred and as a result, although additional state funds had been promised to replace the loss of federal funds when the NIMH grant ran out, state cutbacks did not allow for this. At the same time, Programs For People lost its site because the landlord needed to use the space for other purposes. The agency was in peril, and on the verge of closing. Ms. Carroll sought the assistance of a wide range of supporters of the program to mobilize efforts to save it.

Senator Burke helped get a "conversion" through the legislature that converted other state funds into salary positions for her previously federally paid staff. The Department of Mental Health added its political clout to the process and students from Framingham State College's psychology class mobilized a letter-writing campaign to legislators. A small Department of Mental Health contract was obtained to cover some of the expenses. Framingham Union Hospital offered to let the program move into one of its newly acquired buildings (rather than move to the basement of a state hospital, which was then seen as the only available space) and agreed to charge minimal rent. Ms. Carroll and her staff developed a board of directors for the program after seeking the advice of Paul Marks (who helped start the Danforth Museum) and the President of the Chamber of Commerce. The newly formed Board of Directors established the program as a private nonprofit corporation (Programs For People, Inc.) in 1976, and then Department of Public Health licensure was obtained for third party billing. Gradually the program found its way to solid footing and achieved financial stability.

This, in retrospect, was only the first in a series of financial "hurdles" over which the program has had to progress during its history of operation. In essence, bit by bit, "pieces" of its funding were lopped off along the way, including what remained of its DMH contract, as budgetary constraints plagued the Department of Mental Health. Nevertheless, one way or another with the support and resources of the Board and friends, the program continued to grow and flourish in spite of these losses. New sources of funds were obtained from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) to develop vocational services.

Then suddenly in the fall of 1989, additional state cutbacks had a catastrophic impact upon the program. In one crushing blow it lost 40% of its remaining DMH funds as four of its employees were redeployed to state institutions (one after 16 years of service to the program, another after 15). This loss had such a devastating effect upon the members of the program that they instantly rose up to defend it. Without any prompting or suggestion from the staff the members organized a press conference completely by themselves on the very next day at Framingham Day Hospital. Television cameras from Channel 7 arrived and in an incredibly moving testimonial members stood up one by one to let the public know how much the program had helped them, meant to them personally, and would suffer from the loss of its staff. They wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Mental Health condemning the redeploying of community workers to hospitals and urging the restoration of the staff to the program. They even went to Boston to meet with DMH officials.

In spite of this extraordinary outpouring of support for the program on the part of its consumers, the DMH cuts continued as they did for all of the mental health services in the area and throughout the state. Finally, in a bold decision, the Board and staff decided to embark upon a long and challenging journey over the ensuing years, transitioning the agency to the independent, self-supporting status that it has today, without the help of DMH funds.

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Programs For People — 98 Lincoln Street, Framingham, MA 01702 — 508-879-3230