Mental Health Advocates and Local 509 had a great week with the release of the State Mental Health Safety Task force Report, which received good coverage in last week’s papers.
In addition, the Conference Budget recommendation for the Department of Mental Health (DMH) is higher than either the original House or Senate Recommendations, which is unheard of particularly during this economic climate. DMH retained additional adult community funding and the hospital account and the Child/Adolescent Account were funded close to the Maintenance. SEIU Local 509 advocated for better funding, through a rally at the State House and working with policy makers to show the importance of mental health funding. After the death of human service worker Stephanie Moulton, SEIU Local 509 advocated that the State initiate a statewide safety review and include worker voices within the processes. DMH did indeed initiated a Safety Task force. John Labaki Local 509, Jon Grossman Local 509, and Toby Fisher SEIU were all instrumental in insuring that a strong worker voice from both public and private sectors was present. SEIU Local 509 advocated strongly for improving safety protocols, maintaining safe staffing ratios, initiating competitive salaries, and insuring reasonable caseloads, and they got all of them and more in the report. Completing this Task Force Report was a difficult challenge and a politically volatile issue. Striking a balance of safety, consumer rights, budget issues, and principals of community treatment was a Herculean effort. The report is very comprehensive and its recommendations are larger in scope than can be accomplished in the immediate future. Yet Mental Health Advocates United and SEIU Local 509 will keep the momentum for improving DMH funding and to start implementations plans on the Task Force recommendations.