World News

Introducing Lifelinks Inc

16 November 2007 at 22:03 | 1397 views

By Alpha Lebbie,PV Bureau Chief, USA.

Lifelinks Inc. is a human service organization founded in 1955 by the current Chief Executive Officer, Yvonne Lagarde . It is dedicted to providing services for mentally challenged citizens in Massachusetts, USA.

In the 40s and 50s , services for mentally citizens were provided by either the state or federal institutions in the country. In these state or federal institutions , clients were placed in boarding -like facilities where there was over-population, uniformity and even less personalized care was the order of the day inspite of the good intentions of the authorities.

With this realization emerged as an interest group that agitated for the de-institutionalization of care for our citizens who happen to fall within this group. The concept of de-institutionalization aims at getting the mentally challenged from asylums into the communities into which they were born and where they grew up, just like any other citizens.

It further aims at integrating them into communities and providing educational facilities for them as best as is deemed possible. A stark difference in this new approach is the formulation of INDIVIDUAL SERVICE PLANS for each individual which helps to establish what can be accomplished with any particular individual, unlike institutions which grouped all and sundry without distinctions to abilities.

With de- institututionalization emerged the concept of GROUP HOMES where 4-5 individuals are placed in group homes and a 24 hour service is provided by staff to assist and educate the residents. The first group home was established in 1975 in Massachusetts.

With group homes in place, another concept at better integrating clients into communities has emerged . This is the SHARED LIVING alternative. By shared living , an individual is placed with a family and the department of Mental Retardation or an agency provides the logistics for the individual’s upkeep.

At her Administrative offices at Lexington Avenue in Lowell, Massachusetts, the CEO, Yvonne La-Garde told me that shared living is less expensive and therefore cost effective.

According to her,the state spends sixty thousand dollars for the upkeep of a single individual in group homes. With shared living, this amount is reduced to thirty thousand dollars. An individual is placed in a shared living facility based on trust. She believes that this system helps make a client a part of a family where needs are adequately met. It also prevents abuse.

On the negative side, this scheme is risky with insurance companies. For the CEO, shared living is a win win situation for all involved. For the Care Giver , his/her financial situation is improved . This has helped a few Africans in the scheme buy houses on mortgage.

African Employees.

Lifelinks an equal opportunity employer. It is one of the highest employers of African immigrants in the state of Massachusetts. Quizzed on why her company employs so many Africans, Yvonne replied that Africans constitute a pool of willing workers and that as employers any company would recruit those most willing to work.

She asserted that Africans, being used to a communal lifestyle, do a good job at caring for the population she works with.

"As many Africans come from war torn countries , they know what it means for someone to be in an unfortunate situation. In essence , they are empathetic and as such good care givers," she said.

Education of the labour force.

LifeLinks Inc. is committed to educating its workers. It is as a result of this that the CEO has created the apprenticeship program at the Middlesex Community College in Lowell, Massachusetts. Through this program, staff who are interested in earning Direct Care Certificates can enroll and be sponsored by the company. Unfortunately most Africans do not take advantage of this offer. This is due to the fact that most are working at two jobs with little or no time left to pursue academic pursuits.

Yvonne encourages all her staff to go to school, earn certificates and as a result get better jobs and thereby improve their standard of living instead of being stuck in dead end jobs.

Unionization of the service industry.

The decline in the manufacturing base in the USA today has meant that there has been a steady decline in union membership. To augment the declining membership, the unions have resorted to unionizing the ever increasing service sector. Thus the union for Direct Care workers at LIFELINKS. In as much as this provides said protection for Direct Care workers, it burdens the members with union fees in an industry where financial renumeration is still low.


Care for the mentally challenged has come a long way. From institutions to group homes and now shared living. The country is much more aware of the plight of the mentally challenged. What however is not forthcoming, according to CEO Yvonne La-Garde is donations from the citizenry. For her company to effectively care for its population requires money. Some services that her company offers are not being sponsored by the Department of Mental Retardation and as such depends on the kind heartedness of the public to donate to such ventures.

For instance, Lifelinks throws a party for its guys every year at Christmas time; but not many people are donating to such causes.

The company would want anyone willing to make a donation to contact CEO Yvonne Lagarde at 145 Lexington Avenue Office in Lowell, Massacusetts 01854.

*Yvonne Lagarde(photo)is the of CEO of Lifelinks. She is a Masters degree holder with a kind heart.