Frontline Initiative Complex Needs

Human Services Research Institute (HSRI)

As a new millennium approaches, Human Services Research Institute (HSRI) prepares to celebrate 25 years of nonprofit service to people with disabilities and their families. Throughout its quarter century of achievement in research, policy evaluation, and community support development, HSRI has worked vigorously to raise the voices of people with disabilities in their call for better quality support, freedom from institutions, and for support at home. Under the leadership of the founder and president of HSRI, Valerie Bradley, the thirty staff in Cambridge, Massachusetts and in Salem, Oregon share a commitment to improving the quality of human service support provided to people with disabilities nationwide. 

Human Services Research Institute was established in 1976 to assist states and the federal government to enhance services to people with mental illness and people with mental retardation, and to support the development of alternatives to congregate care facilities. HSRI was active in the 1970s in assessing the potential of federal programs, such as Supplemental Security Income, housing subsidies, and vocational rehabilitation, to expand community services for people with disabilities. HSRI staff also participated in implementing the Community Support Program at the National Institute of Mental Health and in designing a housing research agenda for people with disabilities. The Institute also completed a book on the community movement in developmental disabilities — Deinstitutionalization of Developmentally Disabled Persons: A Conceptual Analysis & Guide (Bradley, 1978).

During the 1980s, HSRI expanded its interests to include quality assurance, needs assessment, and family support. In the area of quality assurance, HSRI developed a wide-ranging report on quality assurance for the Department of Health and Human Services titled, Assessing and Enhancing the Quality of Services: A Guide for the Human Services Field. In the area of needs assessment, HSRI designed the “Quadrant Method” for The National Institute on Mental Health to assist in determining the number of people with severe and persistent mental illness requiring services. HSRI also developed computer simulation models for allocating and planning mental health resources. In collaboration with Developmental Disabilities Councils around the country, HSRI supported families in grass roots movements to lead the way toward flexible, individualized supports that are person-centered rather than prescribed by the service system. These efforts resulted in progressive family support legislation in a number of states. HSRI also tracked and evaluated much of the deinstitutionalizing effort during the ’80s, a period of intense examination of deinstitutionalization in states such as Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, and Massachusetts.

Currently, HSRI is working with several states to evaluate and describe best practices in family support. The Institute has become a Technical Assistance Center for the evaluation of system change in mental health and continues to offer support for state and local health systems. HSRI is now studying the development of participant-driven managed care approaches to providing long-term supports for people with disabilities, as well as the use of performance indicators to monitor and improve system performance.

HSRI is also committed to strengthening the nation’s direct support workforce. Empowered, competent support staff are vital partners in the walk toward self-determination and participant-driven supports. Working in collaboration with Direct Support Professionals and other key stakeholders, HSRI facilitated a national dialogue on the skills, knowledge, and values associated with excellence in direct support work that resulted in the Community Support Skill Standards (CSSS). Since their publication in 1996, HSRI staff have developed several tools and strategies to use with the CSSS in many educational and training settings. HSRI is proud to support the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals which shares our mission of a strong and competent workforce and high quality supports.