The community-based nonprofit Scott Bock built started in the basement of a Newton church with just half a dozen employees. But Riverside Community Care would become a community lifeline, providing behavioral healthcare and support to 40,000 people in Massachusetts each year.

It was 1982 and Bock was a 26-year-old Nebraska transplant with a new idea about how to take care of people in crisis: keep them nearby, close to the people who love them.

“It was this tiny little agency,” said Barry Bock, Scott’s younger brother. “You know, they’re now over $100 million and have over 1,700 employees.”

Bock’s success came largely from his approach.

“I can tell you how I’m going to remember Scott going forward — as a pioneer and leader and a visionary,” said Gov. Charlie Baker, who is expected to speak at Bock’s memorial service Thursday, in an interview with GBH News. “Somebody who saw how community-based services and support for people dealing with behavioral and mental health issues could be delivered.”

Bock died in August of cancer at age 65.

As founder and former CEO of Riverside Community Care, Bock tailored services to individuals, Baker said, and scaled it up to a large, service-based organization.

“In some respects, everybody and anybody who practices in the community of behavioral and mental health, whether they know it or not, is going to be remembering Scott Bock,” Baker said, “because he’s the guy who made it possible for so many others to follow.”

Born in Detriot, Bock grew up in Miami in the 1960s, where he was surrounded by people demonstrating and discussing civil rights, said his brother Barry, who also works in mental health services as CEO of Boston Healthcare for the Homeless.

Scott was 20, Barry said, when he met a young blind girl while working at a state-run mental health facility in Nebraska. Working with her gave Scott the spark to care for people in community settings.

"He's the guy who made it possible for so many others to follow."
Gov. Charlie Baker

“For Scott, the civil rights movement really resonated in this young girl, Gina, and that there had to be a better way for her to be cared for,” Barry said.

Norwood’s Rosemary Anderson and her family benefited from services at Riverside. The retired Boston Public Schools teacher had adopted two girls, ages 2 and 4. Her youngest, who came from an abusive background, “received services with Riverside starting in middle school when her behavior was more uncontrollable,” Anderson said. Her daughter is now 23, she said, and lives in a group home in the community.

Once introduced to the organization, Anderson said, she went on join Riverside’s board of directors. She spoke about Bock, she said, at the most recent board meeting.

Rosemary Anderson and her two daughters, one of whom received mental health services through Riverside Community Care.
Courtesy of Rosemary Anderson

“I did speak to the board because I felt like, you know, from the heart, I don’t know what we would have done without him and Riverside,” she said.

Danna Mauch, president of the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, said Bock was deeply admired by his colleagues, and was an important presence in the behavioral healthcare communty.

“He often took his cue from the people he was serving, and he saw that people wanted more services and different types of services,” Mauch said.

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Scott Bock with Lydia Conley, president and CEO of the Association for Behavioral Healthcare
Courtesy of Riverside Commuity Care

“I always appreciated Scott’s wit, his ability to listen and learn from the opinions of others, including those with whom he disagreed,” said Lydia Conley, president and CEO of the Association for Behavioral Health Care in Natick. “He was very respectful of his colleagues, and he had this amazing capacity to lead people to consensus.”

But Riverside wasn’t his only passion. Family and colleagues said Bock had three loves: his wife Maria, Riverside and blues music. He published more than 400 articles on blues musicians. He wrote liner notes and collected thousands of photographs that he donated to the University of Missouri.

The blues will be playing loud and clear when people gather Thursday afternoon to remember the man who had a simple dream: to help people with mental illness live a better life.

Members of the public who would like to attend Thursday's virtual memorial service for Scott Bock on Zoom should email

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Scott Bock and his wife Maria Tigou Bock attend a Riverside Community Care Gala in 2019.
Heratch Ekmekjian