History of Bridgewell, 60 Years


1940s – 1950s A Movement and Change in Thinking: Frustrated over poor living conditions, and lack of services, parents began to demand better opportunities for their loved ones.

In 1958, Bridgewell began as the Child Guidance Center in Lynn. The original headquarters was a storefront on the corner of Broad and Chestnut Street in Lynn, Massachusetts.

1960s – 1970s Inclusion and Community Living: Society changed and began to accept the notion that individuals with disability can be self-determined, live within their community (rather than in an institutional) and with the correct level of support, can thrive.

In 1970, as de-institutionalization began, Bridgewell opened its first residential program serving adults with developmental disabilities on Laurel Street in Lynn. Bridgewell now operates 70 residential programs supporting 326 people.

In 1970, Project COPE was founded and began providing community-based prevention, education and treatment for people with drug and alcohol disorders.

1980s-1990s Speaking Up for Themselves: In the 1980s, there was a movement for self-advocacy and equal civil rights pushed forward by people with disabilities.

In 1989, Bridgewell’s START Clinical Services and Respite began to provide assessment, medication management and behavioral health services to adults with a dual diagnosis of developmental and psychiatric disability.  It was renamed The Sovner Center after founding doctor, Robert Sovner, in 1997.

1990 The Americans with Disabilities Act is Signed Into Law: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is signed into law and is considered the most important civil rights law, which prohibits discrimination based on disability.

In 1993, Bridgewell receives its first HUD funding to begin serving homeless individuals in Lynn and Lowell.

In 1998, Bridgewell earned its first CARF Accreditation, an international organization which aims to push service providers to offer the highest quality service. Twenty years later, the majority of Bridgewell’s services are CARF Accredited at the highest standard.

In 1999, the federal “Rolland Lawsuit” was settled resulting in the movement of residents out of long-time nursing facilities to residential providers like Bridgewell.

In 2005, the organization rebranded to Bridgewell, after a few name changes including: Bridgewell has had many names: Child Guidance Center of Lynn, Greater Lynn Mental Health, and Greater Lynn Mental Health and Retardation Association.

In 2012, Bridgewell opened the first of now three Rosewood Day Habilitation programs, which are specialized day programs to meet the unique needs of younger adults with autism who are transitioning from the educational system to adult service.

In 2012, Bridgewell Counseling Services expanded to include a Chelmsford location, which also serves children with behavioral health challenges.

Since 2014, Bridgewell has held four conferences on aging with intellectual disability and autism and adulthood. Over 2,000 people attended in total.

In 2014, Project COPE merged with Bridgewell.

In 2016, Bridgewell held its first Bridgewell Day with close to 1,000 people in attendance including individuals in our residences, family members, staff and board members.

Opened in 2016, Bridgewell’s Autism Family Support Center provides services to families from diverse cultural, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds including those who are supporting an individual with autism.

In 2018, Kelly J. Martin became the President & CEO of Bridgewell.

In 2018, Bridgewell’s newest program, the Recuperative Care Center, located in Lynn will begin serving its first guests. The Center provides short term residential care to homeless patients who are too sick to recuperate on the streets or in a shelter but are not ill enough to be in the hospital.