Last month, President Obama released his plan to reduce gun violence.
I am deeply thankful for the President’s leadership in acknowledging that both gun violence and unaddressed and severe mental health issues have all too often played a role in tragedies like those in Newtown, Connecticut and communities across the nation and the need for increased dialogue on mental health in our country is imminent.
Whether at a school, group home, clinic or hospital, SEIU members believe that the right to a safe, secure workplace should be fundamental for all workers. When direct support workers and mental health providers go to work every day, they should never have to worry about getting hurt or losing their lives. And while the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, unaddressed and severe mental health issues have been a common thread in too many of the recent mass killings.
Sadly, the SEIU family has also been deeply affected by violence in the workplace. Four SEIU members in the healthcare and mental health industry have lost their lives recently.
It is up to us to continue to promote a culture of safety not just on our jobs, but in our communities as well.
Have you been impacted by workplace violence? Click here to share your story of support for a system that will improve workplace and public safety and the mental health system to prevent future senseless acts of violence.
Group home workers, clients and family members spoke out in a recent WBUR piece about the urgent need to improve safety for clients and workers in Massachusetts group homes.
Feeling unsafe on the job is a cold, hard fact, some workers said.
“Something like that could easily happen to us,” said Noah Campbell, speaking of Moulton’s murder. For the past three years, Campbell, a member of Service Employees International 509, worked as a counselor for Alternatives Inc., a CBFS vendor providing mental health services in western Massachusetts. “And I don’t think there is anything to prevent that.”
In Massachusetts, Mental Health Advocates United had a tremendous end to the 2012 legislative session.
Our partnership with FundMentalHealth.org made significant progress restoring past cuts and providing services to those living with a mental illness. The 2013 state budget increases funding for adult and children’s community-based mental health services by more than $16 million. As a result, more children, adolescents, adults and seniors began the journey to recovery.
Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry insured that a $100,000 will go for the Stephanie Moulton Safety Symposium. This forum will be a first of its kind in Massachusetts that will be conducted by the DMH annually for direct care community workers. Named for Stephanie Moulton, a mental health counselor from Peabody who was killed in the line of work on January 20th, 2011, this event will focus on improving safety, best practices, policies and risk management.
Lastly, the mental health budget includes $5.1 million to keep 45 psychiatric beds open at Taunton State Hospital. This is great news since the state is already strained with a lack of available acute care beds across Massachusetts, forcing hospitals to discharge patients going through a mental health crisis.
The Center for Medicaid Services (CMS) in Washington, DC has a proposal that goes straight to the heart of our values as people who care about improving support services for adults and children with mental illness and developmental disabilities.
The CMS proposal would give states more flexibility to provide home- and community-based services.
That means more resources for services that value individual choices, independence and the ability for individuals to live in their community with control over their immediate environment and day-to-day activities.
CMS needs to hear from us about why these values are so important and why we need to encourage states to move away from providing services in expensive institutional settings that do not meet individuals’ needs. It’s up to us to be a strong voice for the least-restrictive, most consumer-directed settings for individuals to receive the supports they need.
Send your note today supporting the CMS proposal to promote home- and community-based services for adults and children with mental illness and developmental disabilities.
Thank you for joining with us and making your voice heard.
Instead of making the 1% – the rich and big corporations – pay their fair share, House Republicans voted to make unprecedented and devastating cuts to essential services at a time when 99% of families can least afford it.
These service cuts would hurt millions of people with mental illness and developmental disabilities. At the same time, some in Congress want to give the richest 1% and big corporations more than $4 trillion in tax cuts.
Money from the federal government is by far the single largest source of revenue for state and local governments. So what Congress does matters a lot.
Direct support professional, Cantave Pamphile, tells Congress to get its priorities straight
My name is Cantave Pamphile. I started this work because of the experience I had with my nephew. He has Down Syndrome and I saw what my sister was doing to take care of him. I wanted to be able to provide that assistance to others who need it. I see that if these individuals are given a hand, they can really be able to live the independent lives that they want to.
The best part of the job for me is just working with the individuals and spending time with them. We can see how much our work means to them and contributes to their well-being.
We’re often staffed just enough to maintain the proper level of care for our individuals, and there are so many more things that we could do with the individuals if we had the resources.
If funding for the individuals that we serve were cut, it would affect them a lot. There are eight individuals in the house that I work in, but we only have three staff at a time. The people that I work with need a lot of assistance, so if we were to lose just one staff person, the result would be dramatic. The whole system could fall apart.
Every one of the individuals that I work with has become a part of my family, and I feel like I’ve become a part of theirs. We spend so much time with them, making sure that they have the support they need, that it’s just natural to be close with them and their families. I can’t imagine not being a part of their lives.
Members of Congress need to hear about the individuals that I work with and how much they depend on the services that we deliver. They need to know how the work we do allows individuals to live as independently as possible, and without our work they would be left hanging.
SEIU members joined NAMI and other advocates calling on Massachusetts lawmakers to increase funding for community mental health services. Advocates pointed out that additional cuts run the risk of allowing people to develop long-term physical and mental health problems driving health care costs way up over time. Watch the story covered by channel 22 in Boston to find out more.
People from around the state came together for our lobby day focusing on legislation affecting people with developmental disabilities and mental health issues. Homecare workers and adult foster home providers were joined by consumers to meet with their legislators at the capitol. Below are some videos from this empowering day of action.
Developmentally disabled residents, caregivers and advocates have come together in the Have a Heart Coalition to stop harmful budget cuts that would eliminate critical services for people with disabilities.
In a Valentine’s Day action, coalition members spoke to lawmakers about how the budget debate will impact real people’s lives. Read the coverage in the Providence Journal.
Two Rhode Island state representatives also joined a meeting of over 50 members of SEIU Local 1199NE to hear directly from caregivers about how the cuts will affect the people they serve.
Amanda Hitchener, a direct care staff member asked the elected officials, “Do you remember the Ladd School? That was where the state basically kept developmentally disabled people locked away out of sight and didn’t invest in their care. With these budget cuts, we’re heading back to that model — and it’s wrong.”
Other workers spoke about the impact of the cuts on their wages which are already so low that it is difficult to make ends meet.