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SPRINGFIELD — Mental Health Associates, in partnership with Pioneer Valley Financial Group, created its “You Matter!” recognition program in 2018 to highlight employees and members of the community committed to making a difference in the lives of others.

Carmen Graziano, the most recent individual given “You Matter!” designation, is the award’s very definition in what she has accomplished in her recovery from a medical condition and how she interacts with the community through her part-time office work at MHA’s Worthington Street headquarters.

Graziano was referred five years ago to MHA’s New Way division for those with an acquired brain injury after a stroke several years earlier left her with impairments and in a skilled nursing home facility. The division helps such referrals through a state program transition from an institutionalized setting into one of its small, neighborhood-based group homes that provides 24/7 care as well as access to a range of rehabilitation services to maximize independence.

“Since being in the community with MHA, Carmen has worked hard to rebuild the skills she had lost,” said Sara Kyser, MHA’s New Way Vice President, who nominated Graziano for “You Matter!” recognition. “She did so well in her first group home that her progress led MHA to need to create a more independent, transitional home for Carmen. She has continued to excel in this home.”

Kyser added that Graziano “began her journey back into the vocational world” about two years ago. Her “long work experience” included both home health aide and agency office worker.

“These skills, paired with Carmen’s drive and hard work, made her a great fit for MHA,” said Kyser. “Carmen joined the MHA team as a part-time receptionist, covering the desk during lunch and at other times when relief is needed. Carmen is a wonderful asset to the team and has worked hard to ensure that all people entering through our doors feel welcomed and have their needs tended to.”

Kyser underscored why Graziano was an “easy choice” as a “You Matter!” nominee with a specific example of what she called Carmen’s “beautiful interact” with others as an MHA receptionist.

“Each and every day Carmen takes her role very seriously and engages attentively with anyone who may need support,” she said. “There was one day in particular when I could hear Carmen speaking with someone who was served within the agency. The gentleman was a bit anxious waiting for his worker and expressed some frustration with being in services.”

Kyser said that Graziano “shared her story, identifying herself as an MHA participant.”

“She spoke to him of the struggles that she went through and spoke of the benefits of attending therapy and working hard to help himself get ahead,” Kyser said. “The anxiety in the gentlemen’s voice started to dissipate and he began asking Carmen questions that she happily answered. It was a beautiful interact that Carmen spontaneously had with this gentleman at a vulnerable time for him.”

Graziano, Kyser said, “went above and beyond the expectations of her role and demonstrated the core values of MHA — respect, integrity, and compassion — in a way that made me proud that she is the first face that people see when they come in the door.”

 

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