The Local 509 Union and Mental Health Advocates United Campaign has been extremely successful defending and improving the mental health system in Massachusetts. Over the past few months the Campaign has focused on stopping budget cuts, creating safe jobs with increased staffing levels and restoring the case management cuts from 2009. Some of the results just last week are: successes
1. Members of the union and staff were quoted in Friday’s NY Times article on the Massachusetts Mental Health system: A Schizophrenic, a Slain Worker, Troubling Questions
The article describes the impact of budget and staffing cuts to Massachusetts’ mental health system:
“It’s sort of a cross your fingers and pray approach,” said Scott Bezzini, a mental health outreach worker who is on leave to work for his union.
For those in the community, the department has shifted in recent years from a model of care that sees serious mental illness as a long-term disability to a “recovery” model, which seeks to move clients into increasingly less restrictive, less supervised and less costly living situations.
“It’s all about getting people discharged as opposed to getting them treatment,” said Jill Homer, a state-employed case manager for three decades, who nonetheless feels that the system has “fumbled through” its downsizing fairly well.
2. In January, the Local 509 held a candlelight vigil demanding the state have a statewide review of the mental health system after a worker was killed allegedly at the hands of a mental health client at a group home in Revere. The Department of Mental Health created a Safety task force convened and appointed John Labaki, DMH Chapter President. He has been accompanied by Jon Grossman and Toby Fisher and together they have had a huge impact to insure the task force helps improve worker rights and creates safer workplaces.
3. The Mental Health Advocates United Campaign filed an oversight bill on the Community based Mental System that will insure workers rights and safety. Last week the bill was reported out unanimously in favor by the Massachusetts Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee. This is a huge victory and the bill now moves on to the Ways and Means committee
4. Local 509 leaders have been fighting to restore public case manger jobs. They have been working with administration officials about the recall of the laid off Case Mangers. There are few if any in the mental health system who will disagree that adding 100 experienced case managers to a fraying mental health system will significantly help the system.
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