Black history isn’t just something that we look back on. Black legislators, nonprofit leaders, activists, small business owners, artists, and the list goes on. History is being made right now. As a human services agency that supports people from all walks of life, we were excited to profile trailblazers in this field as part of Black History Month.
Johnnie Lacy (1937-2010)
“Johnnie Lacy was a leader in the independent living movement and fought for the rights of people with disabilities, especially people of color. She led Community Resources for Independent Living, a nonprofit in Hayward providing services and advocacy. Lacy spoke of being excluded from the Black community due to her disability and from the disability community due to being a person of color. As a Black woman in a wheelchair, she educated her communities about race and disability and served as a role model for many other Black disabled women.”
In her own words, listen to Lacy’s oral history here.
Craig Smith (1956-2010)
” Craig Smith was a champion for the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Massachusetts. A fervent support of self-advocacy, Smith helped co-found the organization known as Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong to help others in the state advocate for themselves. He lived self-advocacy. He used his time on this earth meaningfully, as a staff member at Vinfen, a co-founder and Chair of Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong, and serving on many committees and boards. Always with the goal of making the world a better place for people with disabilities. In 2009, just a year before he left us, Smith advocated for the name change of the Department of Mental Retardation, now known as the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).”
“Lois Curtis is an African American artist with intellectual and developmental disabilities and schizophrenia. Curtis paved the way for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to get out of institutional settings and live within communities. During her childhood and early adulthood, she lived in state-run institutions, and her requests to live in the community were repeatedly denied. She sued the state of Georgia, and her case went to the Supreme Court. In the now-famous L.C. v. Olmstead decision, the Court declared that Curtis and other people with disabilities have a right to live in the community and to be provided adequate supports. The Court said the unnecessary institutionalization is a form of segregation and is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Curtis now lives in the community. While Lois Curtis’s contribution to disability and civil rights history is immeasurable, her life extends far beyond that seminal court case.”
Learn more about Lois’ life and her accomplishments here:
“Dr. Sylvia Walker was born in New York City, New York on July 18, 1937. She was blind, and few had expectations for her beyond the typical jobs such as clerical work. After more than 10 years and four degrees, Dr. Walker became an assistant professor in the School of Education at Howard University, and soon a full-time professor. She founded the Center for the Study of Handicapped Children and Youth at Howard University in 1975. She was a champion for disability rights and her research helped lead to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 1994, President Clinton appointed Dr. Walker as vice-chair of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (AAPD) with fellow activists.”
In so many ways we see that Black history and disability history intersect. It has been such a wonderful process of discovering pioneers in our own field. We hope that after reading these profiles you’ve perhaps walked away with a new piece of information or a new appreciation for how far human services have come.
The Chairman of the COVID task force, Al Frugoli, sent the message below to Incompass staff last week on January 28, 2021.
Dear Care Champions:
The numbers are in! We were able to vaccinate 177 staff and individuals this week during our vaccination clinics with Long Term Pharmacy Solutions (LTPS)! Woohoo!!! We are so grateful that so many of you were able to receive the first dose of the vaccine this week, and we will be in touch with details for the February booster shot clinics in the coming weeks.
In this week’s task force update, we’re sharing a recap of our first Incompass vaccine clinics, important resources on the statewide vaccination process, and updates on our own COVID protocols.
The Vaccine Clinic:
The LTPS team has conducted a number of these clinics, and remarked on how impressed they were with our team! The clinical tandem of Alicia Mordach and Chris Snell specifically want to recognize a few members of the team who went above and beyond to ensure we had a smooth process:
The consensus among Care Champions was some sore arms the next day for sure, but no major side-effects from the shot. Our group home residents were fortunate that our highly-skilled residential nursing team was in the observation room keeping an eye on them after their shot and monitoring them this week:
For those who couldn’t attend and wish to be vaccinated, all individual-facing Incompass staff are now eligible to receive the vaccine under the latest Phase 1 guidelines. While we’re actively working with LTPS to procure more doses for another clinic, at this time we don’t know when – or if – we’ll be able to hold another one. The state has opened numerous vaccine clinics where eligible members of the population can sign up to be vaccinated. While not every clinic requires it, if you need proof of employment, you can reach out to human resources.
You can view a list of vaccine clinic locations here, and download the self-attestation form for eligibility here. I recommend you pay close attention to the criteria at each individual site, as some are restricted to residents of a town/city or are only serving senior citizens. Nearly all of them require an appointment to be made in advance through the listed website as well; they aren’t accepting walk-ins. The Governor announced this week that he anticipates having 165 clinics statewide by the end of next month, so check back regularly as more sites in our area hopefully come online.
COVID Safety Protocols, Testing, and Updates:
Remember, while this is an important step forward, everyone who has received the vaccine must continue to follow all of the COVID protocols at Incompass. The vaccine does not prevent the spread of coronavirus, so wearing a mask, socially distancing, reporting symptoms, etc. is critical to protect not only yourself but those around you. (And remember that KN95 masks must be worn at all times in program areas.) We’ll continue to do this #ForEachOther, as the health and safety of all of you and the people you support remains our top priority.
On that note, day programs in our Parker Street facility were suspended yesterday for 14 days after we got word of a positive staff test on Monday. The staff member is asymptomatic but had reported interactions with each of our three Parker cohorts in the days prior to the positive test. We are following our own protocols around exposure – meaning that each of the cohorts and respective DSPs are undergoing testing and need to isolate until February 8 to prevent an outbreak. The day program facilities will also undergo a deep cleaning during this period. We are working on engaging with our participants virtually over the next two weeks to help with the transition, and look forward to welcoming them back!
These are difficult decisions, but taking the necessary precautions is our best defense against an outbreak. And your continued cooperation and vigilance is absolutely a key reason for our success.
That’s all for this week! Keep getting tested. Keep being vigilant. Keep self-reporting. And keep being hopeful. While Chelmsford and Lawrence remain in the “high-risk” designation, the statewide positivity rate dropped below 5.0% last week for the first time since November, and we’re hopeful that’s a sign of things to come. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that we will gather again someday and it will be something to celebrate!
From my family to yours, I want to wish the entire Incompass Human Services community a happy Thanksgiving. This year has been a challenging one, but I thought this particular holiday was a good opportunity to look back at one of my favorite days of 2020: our Care Champions Caravan. On this day in May, dozens of staff drove to each and every one of our group homes to express appreciation to the Care Champions who are working so hard to keep our community safe.
For all of the Care Champions, thank you so much for all that you do. The executive leadership team will be handing out some small tokens of our appreciation to each of you in the next few weeks. We are eternally grateful for the dedication you have to every individual, family member, and caregiver we support.
We were thrilled to start the short holiday week by finding out that Incompass Human Services was featured in The Lowell Sun! This is a huge win for the Incompass community because we truly couldn’t do what we do without the support of our community, Care Champions, the folks we are honored to support, and their loved ones. Check it out here!
One year after the merger between LifeLinks, Inc. and CLASS, Inc., Incompass Human Services reflects the combined agency’s comprehensive service portfolio that serves the whole person and promotes inclusion in the community.
The crowd at 4 Omni Way looks on as the new brand is officially unveiled in a ceremony on Monday, October 19.
CHELMSFORD, MASSACHUSETTS— LifeLinks CLASS, a human services agency serving nearly 800 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families throughout Greater Lowell and Greater Lawrence, announces a new brand and new identity. The agency, an affiliated chapter of The Arc™, will now be known as Incompass Human Services™. As part of the shift, a new logo, tagline, and web domain (www.incompasshs.org) are all being rolled out.
After the merger between LifeLinks, Inc. and CLASS, Inc. was announced on July 1, 2019, establishing a brand that more accurately represented the services and impact of the combined agency was deemed an immediate priority.
“Since the merger was announced, our focus has been bringing together two human services agencies with a combined 111 years of experience in providing critical services and supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Jean Phelps, Chief Executive Officer of Incompass Human Services. “Today’s announcement reflects the culmination of a year-long process to present ourselves as a unified agency – stronger together, with a longstanding tradition of doing whatever it takes to enrich and transform the lives of others.”
The brand was officially unveiled to the Incompass Human Services community in an outdoor ceremony on October 19 at the Chelmsford facility, where Phelps, chairman Tim Allen, and two members of the agency’s day habilitation program held a ceremonial ribbon cutting that revealed the new logo adorning the building at 4 Omni Way.
“Last summer, even after the merger, a lot of people still referred to us as LifeLinks or CLASS and Chelmsford or Lawrence,” said Allen. “But over the course of the year, by focusing on the people and families we serve, we became a cohesive agency with a comprehensive service portfolio that is able to serve the whole person at every stage of their life. Today, we take the next step as Incompass Human Services.”
“Innovating to help the most vulnerable thrive – that’s our brand position,” said Daniel Esdale, Chief Communications and Marketing Officer. “The new brand embodies a ‘care champion’ culture that is defined by the innovation, expertise, and open hearts that have made us a premier provider of lifelong resources for people with disabilities, and their families.”
The Incompass Human Services brand is a complete reinvention of the LifeLinks CLASS identity and visual system that embraces a brand promise to deliver a more personalized, innovative approach to care that best supports the needs of society’s most vulnerable individuals. The new tagline announced in a launch video on incompasshs.org, “with open hearts, we open doors” further speaks to the impact of the work being done throughout Greater Lowell and Greater Lawrence by Incompass Human Services “care champions.”
“The open heart logo and bold color palette differentiate us in the field of human services and evoke the core qualities of the Incompass Human Services care champion,” according to Esdale.
“As we grow and add new services and supports that address the needs of the people we serve across their lives, Incompass Human Services is a brand that will grow with us,” says Phelps. “And I’m thrilled to present the impact of our work under this new brand umbrella.”
The staff at Incompass Human Services gather around the new entrance sign at 4 Omni Way.
CEO Jean Phelps addresses the crowd at the unveiling ceremony on October 19.