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The Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers, Inc. is a statewide association of health and human service agencies. Founded in 1975, the Providers' Council is the state's largest human service trade association and is widely recognized as the official voice of the private provider industry.

What is human services?

Human services refers to both state and private agencies and their employees who provide services for people who may need assistance or support, such as: people with developmental disabilities; people with physical disabilities; people with mental illness; children; elders/senior citizens; veterans; people who are homeless; people who are poor; people who are incarcerated or just released; people with certain health needs; and people who are abused. These groups of people are sometimes referred to as vulnerable populations.

The Providers Council represents hundreds of agencies across the field of health and human services that work with vulnerable populations.

The history of human services

Some human service agencies in Massachusetts were founded as early as the 1800s. At that time, it was believed that people who were different should be removed from society and hidden in institutions, orphanages, or large training schools. An orphanage was a large facility where children without parents/family lived. Orphanages are one example of a place where a group of people (in this case children) who were removed from society were forced to live with other people who were like them (in this case, other children without parents). This is called warehousing. Other types of warehousing of people, besides orphanages, were asylums and institutions. Many people thought warehousing was the best way of dealing with vulnerable populations. For the better part of two centuries, society segregated those groups of people who were different.

The history of community-based human services

In the 1970s, a movement began that worked toward having vulnerable populations be included as part of the community. Social workers and other professional caregivers believed that people had the right to live as part of society, and began nonprofit agencies with community-based programs. It seemed to make more sense to assist people in becoming part of the community, instead of hiding them away from everyone else. Instead of orphanages, alternatives such as adoption, foster homes, and community settings were considered for children. This movement of bringing people back into society and encouraging them to live and work within the community is called 'deinstitutionalization.'

The history of the Providers' Council

These newly formed community-based human services organizations needed to work together to ensure fair funding and legislation that promoted the right and dignity of the populations they served. In 1976, a core group of members founded the Providers' Council to represent their best interests, and provide communications and idea exchange.

Providers sought resources to help them get access to and group pricing on products like insurance. The Providers' Council began its Endorsed Business Partner program with Palmer Goodell Insurance (now USI Insurance Services) in 1976, and has since expanded to offer products from Enterprise Fleet Management, Image Technology Specialists, Interior Resources, Mass Energy Consumers Alliance, ReadyTalk, and Unemployment Tax Management Corporation.

Providers created a forum to gather, learn and celebrate: in 1976, the first Annual Convention of the Providers' Council filled Hayden Hall at BU. This event now draws over 1,000 attendees and more than 75 exhibitors, making it the largest human services convention in New England. Past keynotes include: Gov. Michael Dukakis, Marian Wright Edleman, Les Brown, Patch Adams,  Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and Dick Hoyt.

Providers knew regular communications were the key to keeping up-to-date on the goings on of Beacon Hill and with each other. In 1978, the first issue of The Provider newspaper was released. It now has a circulation of approximately 5,000 and is considered the flagship publication for the industry.

The Providers' Council has come to be known as the official voice of the industry, and will continue to strive to best represent the needs and concerns of its members.