We are pleased to be included in this grant in collaboration, which will allow Riverside to hire two full-time Technology Navigators to help the people we serve obtain digital devices, develop digital skills, and enroll in low-cost broadband programs. The Technology Navigators will work one-on-one with people with mental health challenges and intellectual/developmental disabilities in their homes and our programs.
Riverside Community Care Awarded Digital Equity Partnership Grant to Improve Digital Inclusion for People with Disabilities and People with Mental Health Conditions
Leaders from the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Economic Development and the Massachusetts Broadband Institute announced yesterday the award of a two-year, $4.4M Digital Equity Partnership grant to Vinfen to support a statewide network of mental health and disability organizations, called the Human Services Alliance for Digital Equity (Alliance). (MBI press release here)
Riverside Community Care is one of eight organizations participating in the Alliance. The goal of the Alliance is to increase digital inclusion among low-income people with physical, intellectual/developmental disabilities and people with serious mental health conditions. The eight organizations that comprise the Alliance are: Advocates, Behavioral Health Network, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Department of Psychiatry, Boston Center for Independent Living, Clinical Support Options, Open Sky, Riverside Community Care, and Vinfen.
The Alliance is one of three entities to receive a first-round Digital Equity Partnership grant from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, a division of Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech). This Digital Equity Partnership grant will provide funding to the eight organizations within the Alliance to deploy 15 regionally based Technology Navigators to help people obtain digital devices, develop digital skills, and enroll in low-cost broadband programs. The Technology Navigators will work one on one with people with disabilities in homes and in service settings. Through this grant Alliance organizations will provide services in 230 cities and towns in Massachusetts (11 counties). Riverside will hire two Technology Navigators to provide services to clients in over 40 towns.
“Massachusetts has a real opportunity to close the digital divide and ensure all people in our state can participate in the digital economy,” said Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao. “These grants will help residents build their digital skills and get online affordably, thereby expanding their connections to job and training opportunities, healthcare resources, social connections, and so much more. We are grateful to the Massachusetts Broadband Institute for its work to make affordable high-speed internet available to residents across the state.”
“On behalf of the Human Services Alliance for Digital Equity, we are thrilled to be awarded one of the first round Digital Equity grants,” said Kim Shellenberger, Vinfen’s Chief Strategy Officer. “In today’s world, technology access and digital skills are no longer a luxury and this grant will enable our organizations to provide crucial support services to reduce the digital divide among people with disabilities and people with mental health challenges.”
People with disabilities are nearly 20% less likely to own a computer or smartphone and they are three times more likely to say that they never go on-line (Pew 2021). The barriers to technology access and digital literacy include lack of knowledge and lack of confidence in how to utilize the technology, and the prohibitive costs of purchasing and maintaining devices. When given the opportunity, people with disabilities embrace all that technology has to offer. Technology can transform lives in the following ways: 1) improve access to medical and behavioral health care through tele-health (people who can’t tele-health may experience longer waits and less access); 2) open new employment opportunities; 3) improve independence and executive function by using reminders and calendar app to keep appointments, maintain a clean house and good personal hygiene; 4) enhance communication using text to speech and speech to text apps; 5) support mental health recovery by using specific symptom management and relaxation apps.
According to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Digital Inclusion refers to activities necessary to ensure access to digital technology and the skills to use it. The five elements are: 1) affordable, robust internet service, 2) internet-enabled device that meets the needs of the user, 3) digital literacy training, 4) technical support, and 5) content to encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration.
About Riverside Community Care:
Riverside Community Care (www.riversidecc.org) makes a difference in the lives of individuals, families, and communities through innovative and compassionate behavioral healthcare and human services. A community-based non-profit organization, Riverside offers a wide range of mental healthcare, developmental and brain injury services, early childhood and youth programs, addiction treatment, trauma response, and more. And Riverside’s behavioral health consulting, screening, and suicide prevention programs are helping more than 3.5 million people around the globe.
About The Human Services Alliance for Digital Equity:
The eight Alliance organizations provide a wide range of services including outpatient mental health, skill development and employment programs, group homes, substance use treatment, community support teams, homeless programs, transitional housing and drop-in centers. The Alliance views digital inclusion services as an essential part of our organizations’ missions to promote clients’ recovery, resiliency, skill development and self-determination. The Alliance believes every person should have the technology and skills needed for full participation in our society.