Issues: Funding

We envision a future where there is adequate funding for all people with mental health needs and developmental disabilities to access the service and supports they need in the setting of their choosing.  The only way to achieve this, especially in the current budget environment, is by uniting the workers, families, advocates and individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities to speak with one voice to preserve essential services and aggressively pursue new funding streams that increase access.

Emergency calls needed to save Medicaid

I wanted to share this urgent message from SEIU President Mary Kay Henry

Did you hear the breaking news yesterday?

The New York Times reported on a debt ceiling deal that would make deep cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security benefits without asking for an ounce of sacrifice from corporations and millionaires.

The bill would add millions to the unemployment rolls and deny medical care to the most vulnerable among us – including many of the people SEIU members care for on a daily basis.

It’s up to us to stop this bill. You should make an emergency call to your member of Congress RIGHT NOW and tell them to stand strong against these cuts. Use this phone number:


Together we can stop this bill with enough grassroots participation. Today, dozens of member-driven groups are pushing calls to Congress encouraging their representatives to stand strong against these outrageous cuts.

Please make the call, and we’ll keep you up-to-date on what we’re hearing in our conversations about the debt deal.

In solidarity,

Mary Kay Henry
President, SEIU

P.S. After you’ve made the call, please report what your Member of Congress said at this link:

If you are not able to make a phone call where you are reading this, click here to send an email.

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Mental Health Advocates United:Recent Victories

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.

There’s more work to be done and we need your help.  Sign-up here to keep up to date on our work in MA and elsewhere to protect vital human services.

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Senate Rejects Ryan Budget Proposal That Would Have Cut Medicaid

SEIU members across the country have been calling and emailing their Senators to reject the radical Ryan budget plan passed by the House of Representatives last month.  The plan included massive cuts to Medicaid services for 8 million Americans with disabilities in order to pay for tax cuts to corporations and millionaires.  In a stunning rebuke of the radical proposals of Representative Ryan, the Senate voted down the Ryan Budget Plan yesterday.   SEIU President Mary Kay Henry released this statement last night:

“Voters across America have been telling Congressional Republicans to focus on creating good jobs and to keep their hands off their healthcare and retirement security. Today’s vote is another indication that any budget that guts Medicare and Medicaid while extending tax giveaways to millionaires and corporations is unacceptable to the American people.

“We cannot simply cut our way to a budget solution. We need to create revenue by making corporations pay their fair share and by putting people back to work. Members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, need to listen to Main Street and do their jobs. That should start by working to create good jobs for the more than 13 million Americans who need them.”

Our work is not done.  We still need a budget that protects vital human services, like Medicaid, for the Americans with disabilities who depend on them to live independent lives as part of their community.  Around the country SEIU members are working with disability advocates and community partners to call for a budget that reflects the reflects our values on Main Street, not a corporations bottom line on Wall Street.  Sign-up here to stay involved in our fight to preserve Medicaid funding.

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Medicaid vs the Millionaires

Decades ago, the dream of a person with a disability living in their own home, working in the community, or living independently was just that—a dream. Right now, because of funding for services provided under Medicaid, over 8 million people with disabilities have control over their lives, are living and working in the community—and the dream is a reality.

Last month, the House of Representatives voted to shatter the dream for people with disabilities. Representative Ryan’s “Reverse Robin Hood” Budget proposal cuts Medicaid services and supports to people with disabilities in order to pay for tax cuts for corporations and millionaires.
Tell your member of Congress this is unacceptable.

The Ryan plan does nothing to control costs or meet the demand for services and supports–like the home and community based supports. It would force people with disabilities to compete for an ever shrinking pool of money for services with seniors and children and give huge tax breaks to big corporations and millionaires.

Join us and tell your Representative support services and supports for people with disabilities, not tax breaks for corporations and millionaires.

This isn’t just about the budget–it’s about our morals as a country. Do we value ensuring strong Medicaid services that will be there for people with disabilities when they need it? Some members of Congress would have us turn our backs on people with disabilities who depend upon Medicaid as their lifeline.

We’ve got to put the heat on members of Congress to fight this proposal tooth and nail until we have a federal budget that does not inflict harm on those who can least afford it.

Will you contact your member of Congress today
to tell them you support services for people with disabilities, not tax breaks for corporations and millionaires?

Last month’s vote jeopardizes the advancement people with disabilities have made over the last several decades towards dignity, respect and independence.

Contact your member of Congress today
and tell them you support services for people with disabilities, not tax breaks for millionaires and corporations that outsource jobs.

After you have contacted your member of Congress, ask your friends, co-workers, colleagues and others who want to preserve medicaid services to take action.  You can use our online share tool here to send them a quick message or share through facebook.

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Hundreds of mental heath and home caregivers rally in Olympia to protect services

Put People First!
On April 7, more than 500 community mental health workers and long-term caregivers, members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and 775NW, rallied at the state capitol in Olympia, WA. The healthcare workers urged legislators to protect essential mental health, disability care and low-income housing programs by closing tax loopholes benefiting banks and wealthy corporations.

After protesting outside a Chase Bank branch, union members occupied the State Capitol rotunda for several hours; sixteen members of local 775NW staged a nonviolent sit-in outside Governor Gregoire’s office and were arrested by Capitol police. By the end of the day, the Governor agreed to meet with a delegation of healthcare workers, who delivered the same message: balancing the state budget solely by cutting social and human services is immoral. Before cutting services, we must close tax loopholes benefiting Wall Street banks and other wealthy interests.
The action at the state capitol is part of a broad effort to protect vital human services in Washington. Proposed budget cuts would leave 27,000 Washington kids without healthcare and tens of thousands of people with mental illness are losing housing and services. Meanwhile, legislators are giving away millions in tax breaks to corporate chicken farms for warm chicken bedding, $5 million a year to private jet owners, and $100 million a year to Wall Street Banks.

In March, 1199NW President Diane Sosne, RN, MN, brought the twisted priorities of the state to life with an Op-Ed published in the Olympian when she described the differences between Bill and a chicken. Bill suffers from mental illness and chemical dependency, but thanks to a vital program Disability Lifeline, he has been able to get on his feet. Unfortunately, as Diane writes, Bill’s needs are not as important as a chicken:

…last fall the state cut monthly Disability Lifeline payments from $339 to $258. Bill could no longer afford to rent his apartment, and began sleeping on the street. Without the support he needed, he relapsed, found himself in jail, then ended up in an intensive inpatient treatment facility.

Now about those chickens: Ten years ago, the state Legislature passed a special tax break to benefit a few dozen factory farms that raise chickens. There’s a tax break on bedding – wood shavings, sawdust, straw, shredded paper – and another tax break for natural gas to heat the barns so the birds can stay warm. All told, these tax breaks cost Washington $4.5 million over the last four years. With the state facing a $5 billion deficit, it’s time for the corporate chicken farms to pay their fair share.

We’ve got our work cut out for us in state houses like Washington across the US. SEIU members are standing with people with disabilities and mental health needs to protect human services, not tax breaks for corporations and millionaires. Sign-up here to stay up to date on our in WA and across the US.

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Vote on Extreme House Republicans’ Budget Shows Who Stands With Working Families

Vote on Extreme House Republicans’ Budget Shows Who Stands With Working Families

After the House of Representatives passed the Republican budget resolution, Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement:

“While the outcome of today’s vote is not a surprise, it is still disappointing that House Republicans supported a proposal that would harm millions of seniors, people with disabilities, women and children who rely on Medicaid and Medicare. House Republicans aim to fundamentally dismantle these essential programs to pay for even more tax giveaways to corporations and millionaires.

“While we must take serious measures to address our serious fiscal challenges, the House Republicans’ budget is a non-starter. Representatives who voted against the budget resolution deserve credit, but now Democrats in Congress should take the lead to devise a budget that reflects our national values and priorities. The House Republicans’ extreme proposal should be left to wither on the vine.”

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Chairman Ryan’s budget proposal would cut services to people with disabilities in order to pay for tax cuts to wealthy and corporations

House vote is today.  Call your Representative now!

A budget is a statement of priorities and values. House Republicans believe that government should work for the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of everyone else. Chairman Ryan’s budget proposal would put the burden of balancing the budget on the backs of people with disabilities while cutting taxes for millionaires and providing tax subsidies for corporations that outsource jobs. This proposal would end Medicaid as we know it—a lifeline of services and supports to people with disabilities.

• The House Republican budget calls for $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid and turning it into a block grant to the states. “Block granting” is code for taking away services for seniors, people with disabilities and children.

• Capping the federal share of Medicaid spending, which a block grant would do, means that states will have to pick up more of the tab, or cut services to beneficiaries, as the cost of care increases. With many states already balancing the budget on the backs of people with disabilities, this would make matters worse.

• Over 8.8 million people with disabilities rely on Medicaid for health coverage and funding for service and supports that help them live independent lives as part of their community. For people with developmental disabilities Medicaid is the primary payor of long-term care services.

• Medicaid is one of the most efficient and effective forms of economic stimulus. Every dollar spent results in a multiplier effect that creates jobs and provides a boost to the state economy.

• While Medicaid is often thought of as a program for the very poor, it covers the costs of nearly two-thirds of all nursing home residents.

• The federal government provides about 50% to 75% of a State’s Medicaid budget.

Call your representative now and tell your Representative to reject the Ryan proposal with our online call tool

After you have made the call, send a message to your friends, colleagues, co-workers and everyone else who cares about services for people with disabilities to make the call with our online tell-a-friend tool.

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Rallies Across Massachusetts Kick-off Human Serivce Workers Campaign

Originally posted at
Local 509 members advocate for safer working conditions and a living wage

Malden Human Serivce Workers Rally

Over the last few weeks hundreds of Local 509 members have braved the cold to join together in rallies across the state. With chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, unsafe staffing’s got to go!” we brought the message to the public that while human service work is important to our communities, it is often not given the respect and dignity that it deserves. At each of the rallies, union members and allies from the community spoke of the often unsafe working conditions and inadequate pay that private-sector human service workers face in Massachusetts. A special thanks goes out to the numerous 509 public-sector members who attended and spoke in support of their union sisters and brothers in the private -sector.

Malden Human Service Worker Rally

The rallies kicked off with a mid-day gathering in front of the Malden Center MBTA station on Tuesday. Speakers from Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong (MASS), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Greater Boston Labor Council, and a number of other community allies joined our private and public sector members to support human service workers.

Malden Human Serivce Workers Rally

Wednesday’s rally brought us to Lincoln Square in downtown Worcester at rush hour. As in Malden, there was tremendous turnout from SEIU Local 509 members and our community allies, including a strong contingent from MPower. Amidst numerous waves and car-horn honks of support, State Senator Michael Moore as well as representatives from MASS and MPower, spoke passionately in support of the hard work that human service workers do for the people of our state.

Worcester Human Service Rally

Continuing west, Springfield was the next stop on our tour of the commonwealth. Along with the 509 private- and public-sector members who staged the rally, representatives from Western Mass Jobs With Justice and the UAW stood with us to support human service workers in the Pioneer Valley.

In addition to the many passers-by, our message was also spread throughout Western Massachusetts with news reports airing that night on WWLP-22 (click here to watch), CBS 3 Springfield (click here to watch), and WGGB-6, and a radio broadcast on WFCR.

Worcester Human Service Worker Rally

Our rallies concluded with a trip to New Bedford on Friday. With support from the Greater Southeastern Massachusetts Labor Council and other community allies, our members made a strong showing in front of City Hall. In fact, after the rally a group of 509 members were invited inside to meet with Mayor Scott Lang as well as a group of the local State Representatives and State Senators to discuss the issues facing human service workers in their community. We would like to thank the mayor and the state delegation for taking the time to listen to our concerns.

New Bedford Human Service Worker Rally

With a week of successful rallies bringing attention to our cause, the private-sector members of Local 509 are now organizing for the upcoming contract campaigns at a number of our facilities. In order to make sure that human service workers are treated with dignity and respect, we’re taking our fight for safe staffing and a living-wage to the State House and local legislators around the state.

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Providers in Oregon tell their story to legislators in Salem

Last week hundreds of providers of disability services and supports flocked to Salem for a Lobby day to protect the clients they provide service and supports to from looming budget cuts. Not everyone was able to attend in person, but through the magic of technology they were able to deliver their message via video to their representatives. Check out some of these powerful stories from providers all across Oregon talking about the impact budget cuts would have on the clients they serve.

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SEIU Members Work with Broad Coalition to Protect Disability Services in CA

When Jerry Brown replaced Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor of California, he inherited a state with a $26 billion deficit and near financial collapse. In response, Governor Brown proposed a mix of tax extensions and budget cuts to close the deficit and position California to rebuild. Among the painful cuts proposed, people with developmental disabilities were targeted with reductions of over 20% of their services.

The member leaders of the California SEIU DD Council rallied to the defense of the people they serve. We called an emergency meeting to develop a winning strategy and tactics to protect the services our consumers need.

SEIU CA DD Council Planning Meeting

Members of SEIU locals from all of CA met in San Diego to plan their response to proposed budget cuts to developmental disability services.

We worked in the large DD coalition with advocates, consumer and family groups, provider organizations, and others to discuss strategy and messaging for the DD community. We testified at key legislative hearings and lobbied. We wrote their legislators and newspapers. We reached out to advocates and provider groups all across California to plan rallies and other actions together.

In my part of the state, we held a rally at the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse and got some excellent media coverage during the evening news.

The outpouring of concern from the California DD community was overwhelming. As more people become aware of the threat to services, more people began to show up. The February 10 Senate hearing on the DD budget witnessed one of the largest crowds ever to show up for a hearing in the state’s history. The hearing room overflowed, the overflow rooms overflowed, the Capitol Police had to close off part of the Capitol because of the throngs of people with developmental disabilities, their families, providers and direct support workers. People came and spoke their truth. And they were heard.

A week later, the Legislature dramatically reduced the level of cuts to the DD system.
Assemblywoman Holly Mitchel (D-Los Angeles) highlighted the powerful impact the testimonies and rallies had on the Legislature.

“You can see flat statistics on a piece of paper,” Mitchell said, “but then you hear a mother talk about ‘I am a parent of an adult with a developmental disability, and my husband and I lay awake at night wondering what will happen.’ … I truly believe all of those witnesses and the thousands of witness communications we received made a significant difference.”

Now our members are focused on working with the Administration on minimizing the damage from the remaining budget reductions and in fighting to support the Governor’s revenue package – so deeper cuts can be avoided. We are proud to have done our share in protecting the rights of people with developmental disabilities and the services they rely on.

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