This year, we are celebrating Aspire’s 40th anniversary. What started as a spin-off for special projects, in November of 1981, at a community mental health center in Vermont has become a respected community service provider to hundreds of people with disabilities of all ages across a multi-state footprint.
Back in the 1980s Aspire was focused on helping adults with complex behavioral needs move out of institutions. We assisted individuals to build new lives in the community, starting in New Hampshire, and quickly adding services in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Within a few years, we extended our reach to include medically fragile adults in Maryland, most of whom were never expected to live long enough to need community supports.
Our behavioral expertise led to the development of the Permanency program in Connecticut, first through specialized foster care for children with developmental disabilities, and then with intensive foster care for children who have experienced significant trauma and its resulting challenges. We expanded our scope to students with autism and other learning challenges at ALL Academy and through the School Partnership programs.
Most recently, Aspire developed staffed residences for individuals with acquired brain injury to enable them to leave the confines of nursing homes and return to community life.
Through it all, Aspire staff has maintained the fierce commitment that I’ve seen from my first day here — the kind of commitment that’s needed to weather the difficult days when behavioral challenges, medical crises, and systems change test our capacity. Many of the people we serve have not succeeded in previous placements where systems were not flexible enough to address their needs. Our greatest strength lies in our commitment and capacity to do the right thing for each person, even when it’s not easy.
It takes courage to do what is right, and that often means taking a step into the unknown. Sometimes the things we try don’t work. We make mistakes. We pick ourselves up, absorb the lessons from those mistakes, and try another way. I appreciate that we are able to show our vulnerability, that we recognize we are always learning alongside the people we serve and support.
Each DSP, each manager, and each clinician has an important role to play in helping people create great lives for themselves. With our person-centered approach, ongoing learning, and evidence-based practices, we will continue to offer individualized supports that deeply speak to each person’s hopes and dreams.
The foundation we have built over the past 40 years will be our solid base for the next 40. We will build new structures and services that may not look exactly like what we do now. Our foundation will ensure that our services will be what the people we serve need and expect from us.
I look forward to continuing to build Aspire alongside you. Be well, and happy new year.