START Overview

The START (Systemic, Therapeutic, Assessment, Resources, and Treatment) model serves people diagnosed with intellectual/developmental disabilities and co-occurring behavioral health conditions. This comprehensive model of service supports optimizes independence, treatment, and community living for individuals with IDD and behavioral health needs. It promotes person-centered approaches and training for individuals, families, and caregivers by applying core principles of positive psychology, utilization of therapeutic tools, provision of multi-modal clinical assessments, promoting enjoyable therapeutic recreational experiences, and optimal utilization of existing resources through:

  • Linkages with partners;

  • Engagement of service user, family, and other circles of support involvement;

  • Promotion of improved expertise across systems of care; and

  • The utilization of services designed to fill gaps

START has been providing person-centered clinical services and therapeutic emergency and planned services since 1988 when it was founded by Joan Beasley, Ph.D. in Northeast Massachusetts. START was first cited as a model program by the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office in the 2002 report, CLOSING THE GAP: A National Blueprint to Improve the Health of Persons with Mental Retardation. The Center for START Services was founded in 2009 at the Institute on Disability/UCED at the University of New Hampshire to respond to a nationwide demand to develop START services and provide technical support, education, and guidelines to ensure model fidelity. In 2016, the START model was identified as best practice by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine.