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Under New Leader, BC Social Work Center Redefines Mission

Kevin Mahoney & Richard Petty
Richard Petty (right), director of the Boston College-based National Resource Center for Participant Directed Services, with his predecessor Kevin Mahoney, who remains as a researcher with the center. (Photo courtesy of NRCPDS)

DECEMBER 4, 2014

Boston College's innovative National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services (NRCPDS) is undergoing a major transition this fall, with new leadership and an expansion of its mission to help give individuals and families greater control over the design and delivery of home and community-based services.

Richard Petty, an experienced administrator in advocacy and programs promoting independent community living for persons with disabilities, began his duties as director of the center – housed at the BC School of Social Work – after being appointed this past summer.

He succeeds Professor of Social Work Kevin Mahoney, the founding director and architect of NRCPDS, who will remain as a researcher and oversee the new center initiative focusing on behavioral health, funded by a three-year, $1 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The NRCPDS assists states, agencies and organizations in offering participant-directed (PD) services to people with disabilities, including older adults. These services promote independence by helping participants decide for themselves what mix of personal-assistance supports and services best fits their needs. The center – which provides technical assistance, training, education and research – served as the national program office for Cash & Counseling, a successful decade-long effort to introduce PD programs into 15 state Medicaid programs.

In the past decade, according to NRCPDS, the number of PD programs has more than doubled — to almost 300 — as has the number of individuals utilizing PD services and supports, to some 810,000. All states have at least one long-term services and supports program that gives participants the authority to hire, fire and manage their own health care workers; 45 states also allow participants to manage their service budgets. Studies have shown many positive and encouraging results from this approach, the center notes.

"I've known Kevin for many years, and thought his work in PD services was groundbreaking and revolutionary," says Petty, who had been program director at Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU), a national center advancing community transition programs. "To me, it also said a lot about Boston College that the University supported what Kevin was doing. So the opportunity to come to BC and continue Kevin’s excellent work was a very welcome one."  More from the Boston College Chronicle »