Issues: Quality Services

Our members are committed to delivering the highest quality services and supports for persons with mental health needs and developmental disabilities.  As the person with most frequent and consistent interactions with clients and consumers, human service professionals are a key link in the quality of care.  By joining their voices together and working alongside the advocacy community, human service professionals have made great strides to improve the quality of services and supports they provide.


From East to West Coast, Human Service Workers Come Together to Form their Union


In a win for the workers and the communities they serve, human service workers in Massachusetts and California have voted to form their union with SEIU to have a voice on the job and improve the quality of services they provide.

Following a months-long campaign, more than 100 CLASS service providers will now join SEIU Local 509. This historic win makes CLASS the first unionized affiliate of The Arc in Massachusetts.

“I’ve been an Integrated Day Service Specialist at CLASS for over five years and I love my work,” said Liz Parrilla, a worker who voted. “My co-workers and I know that SEIU Local 509 will stand with us in our fight for fair wages, safer working conditions and a real voice on the job. We’ve united to make our voices heard.”

Over 150 employees of Mission Hope Day Program (MHDP) in northern California have also voted to form their union with SEIU Local 1021. Workers stuck together in the face of MHDP management’s effort to intimidate them with expensive anti-union consultants who tried to convince workers not to vote for their union.

“In the past we have tried to voice our concerns to management but nothing changed, “said Manny Lopez, Mission Hope worker and union supporter. “Coming together and forming a union will help us see the changes we’ve earned.”

MHDP employees are already preparing for the next step when they will sit down with their employer to improve their jobs and ensure their clients receive the quality care they deserve.

Read more on CLASS win in the North Reading Patch here and visit the 509 Local website here.

Read more on the Mission Hope win on the SEIU 1021 Local website here.



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Coworkers, family & community allies remember slain mental health provider

Candlelight vigil in Peabody, MA

Coworkers, family members, and community allies held statewide candlelight vigils to remember slain mental health provider Stephanie Moulton on her birthday.  She would have been 26.  Stephanie was killed just over a year ago, allegedly by a mentally ill client in Revere, MA.

Since Stephanie’s tragic death, her family, mental health advocates and coworkers have been working on key legislative initiatives that would improve safety in the mental health system, including “Stephanie’s Law,” which would require Department of Mental Health facilities in Massachusetts to be equipped with panic buttons.

Panic buttons – which would be used to call for help in the event of an emergency – could save lives.

Two-hundred people participated in events across Massachusetts last night honored Stephanie by highlighting the need for immediate implementation of measures to prevent and respond to threats to worker safety in the mental health system.  People from around the country sent messages to Stephanie’s family and some shared their own stories about workplace violence within the mental health system.  Please click here: to send Stephanie’s family a letter of condolence and to share your own story of workplace violence.

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Remembering slain mental health provider Stephanie Moulton

Stephanie Moulton would have turned 26 years-old today.

About a year ago, the mental health provider was repeatedly stabbed to death by one of her mental health patients at the Revere facility, a Massachusetts state-run facility.

At the time of the incident Stephanie was working alone. She didn’t have a panic button, security or anything else to circumvent what took place after the patient was triggered.

Stephanie’s family, friends and SEIU Local Union 509 have since teamed up to push for legislation requiring mental health facilities to have panic button equipment for all its providers. Though one would think this would have been implemented days after Stephanie’s death, a year later this simple step in the right direction is caught up in endless committee.

While there will be statewide candlelight vigils taking place in Massachusetts today, we are calling on members and activists to send Stephanie’s family a letter of condolence, of solidarity, and if moved to do so, their own story as it relates to violence on the job. We will be certain that every response is personally delivered.

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SEIU Members and Disability Rights Advocates Tell Congress “My Medicaid Matters!”

Our union’s home care workers provide lifesaving care to seniors and people with disabilities every single day around the country. They’re on the front lines of personal care and know all too well how cutting and gutting Medicaid will affect their consumers, their families and simultaneously cost hardworking people good jobs — jobs that cannot be outsourced or shipped overseas to other countries.

Folks have had about enough of the blatant disrespect the threat to gut Medicaid is toward our most vulnerable citizens–and the workers caring for them. It is for this reason that more than 40 home care members from 10 different states joined forces with disability rights advocates and allies today to participate in a “My Medicaid Matters” rally on Capitol Hill.

And the fight didn’t end there: Our members then went off to meet with the staff of 16 Senators, including members of the “super committee.”

When Gilda Brown, a home care worker from Chicago, had the chance to talk with some of the Senate staff, she drilled home how important Medicaid Matters with a story from a “normal day” of work for her:

“The woman I care for has sickle cell anemia and relies on me for everything. One day in the middle of the winter the furnace caught on fire, “Don’t leave me here,” she said, “Don’t let me die.” After instructing her to call 911, I ran down into the basement and began smothering the fire.”

Can you imagine how this day would have ended if Gilda was not there for her client? Cuts to Medicaid, as being proposed, would force her client to pay out of pocket for homecare – if she could afford to pay for homecare. If she couldn’t afford the care, however – what happens then?

Home care worker Julia Newton, member of SEIU Local 5, became a personal care attendant because of her son Antoine, who is autistic and needs around-the-clock care. Julia is also in town to participate in the important Why Medicaid Matters campaign.

Julia shared the story of Antoine being on the urgent waiting list for a Medicaid waiver for 10 years.

“Together with my fellow homecare workers, we led a campaign in the Virginia legislature to add more people in critical need of homecare services to our Medicaid program,” she said. “My son is one of the new lucky recipients, but there are thousands of Virginians who are still on the Medicaid waiting list who are not so lucky. This isn’t right!”

It’s time we get Congress to think long and hard about our seniors and neighbors with disabilities. We need to Congress to consider that cutting Medicaid would also eliminate millions of jobs the homecare and long term care industry currently employs.

Will you make yourselves heard with Gilda and Julia? Click here to take action to protect Medicaid now.

View photos from today’s action on Flickr here.

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Local 509 and Advocates Call on State to Put Mental Health Client and Worker Safety First

SEIU Local 509 had a very successful week working in partnership with families, the trade association, advocacy organizations, legislators, and consumers.  There was major news coverage of our call to action to improve safety measures in the state’s mental health system. Most notably was an op-ed in the Boston Globe, written in collaboration between the Presidents of both the SEIU Local 509 and the Behavioral Health Association, calling attention to the necessity that the state  implement all of the Safety Task Force recommendations.

Both our organizations and our members understand the critical importance of staff and consumer safety at DMH-funded programs. Safety is an essential condition for the success of these services in helping individuals achieve recovery. Direct care workers, providers, consumers, DMH and the Legislature need to work together to for the benefit of both consumers and staff in passage of comprehensive legislation based on the recommendations of the DMH Task Force on Staff and Client Safety.

Press coverage also included a six minute radio interview on WBUR with SEIU 509, NAMI-Mass, and the family of Stephanie Moulton, a human service worker allegedly killed by a mentally ill client. There were also two news articles on a rally spear-headed by the Moulton Family, SEIU Local 509, and The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health.

Here are some links to those articles:
Family of Slain Caseworker to Testify on Beacon Hill for ‘Stephanie’s Law’
Service Workers, Family of Slain Peabody Woman Rally for Statewide Safety Reform

Photo from Rally for Stepanie's Law

Photo from Rally for Stepanie

Local 509 also testified in favor of “Stephanie’s Law” at State House, as a part of an overall safety reform campaign in the mental health system.

Photo from ocmmittee hearing on Stephanies Law

Photo from committee hearing on Stephanie

This bill, named after Stephanie Moulton, would require all DMH facilities to be equipped with panic buttons. Local 509 is proud to garner support for this bill and will keep working with all stakeholders to improve all areas of safety for human service workers.

509 Members at Rally for Stephanies Law

509 Members at Rally for Stephanie

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Action! SEIU Members Take To The Streets To Save Medicaid In Debt Ceiling Debate

The drawn-out debt ceiling debate galvanized working people to come together en masse to redirect the discussion from catering to CEOs in board rooms to creating jobs and relieving the pain of families at their kitchen tables across the country. SEIU Members and community allies stood together to tell Congress to fund vital human services for people with disabilities like Medicaid, NOT tax breaks for corporations who ship jobs overseas.


In the weeks leading up to the critical final hours of the debt ceiling debate, SEIU active and retiree members made more than 16,000 calls, sent emails and took to the streets to say loud and clear that cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security would be unacceptable. Read on for a round-up of actions that SEIU members took part in NY, IL, MN, PA, MA, OH, CA, WI and FL.

New York

Seniors and community members from Long Island and NYC took action to get their message heard loud and clear: instead of slashing funds to programs like Medicare and Medicaid, banks should be helping balance the budget. More than 150 people organized by United NY, 1199SEIU and 32BJ held “Knit-Ins” at banks on August 3 to create blankets that say “Save Medicare.” The blankets will be hand-delivered to members of Congress during the August recess.


Earlier in July, SEIU Local200U members who provide support for people with developmental disabilities joined with community ally the Center for Disability Rights to pay a visit to Representative Buerkle’s staff for a discussion about proposed cuts in Medicaid. As part of the visit, members delivered over 800 postcards they’d collected calling on Rep. Buerkle and Rep. Gibson to fund Medicaid services for people with disabilities, not tax breaks for corporate jet owners.

Chris Gibson's office visit.jpg

“We help people cope with life and take care of themselves,” said Local 200U member Dave Zimmerman. “If cuts are made to Medicaid, which is the funding which provides these folks the opportunity to be on their own, it would negatively impact their lives and diminish their dreams.”


SEIU members joined an audience of 60 constituents at U.S. Representative Erik Paulsen’s district office to tell him not to balance the budget on the backs of seniors and working families.

Millionaires for Medicaid Event2.jpg

Members and activists protested and held signs outside of U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack’s office, telling him to “Stop Protecting Fat Cats.” In contrast, members gathered in a gesture of appreciation outside the office of U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum to show their thanks for her strong opposition to cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.


SEIU Healthcare PA members took action by visiting the district offices of Reps. Tim Holden and Jason Altmire to send the message that we cannot solve the ongoing debt ceiling debate through cut and gut economic policies only. Watch video here.



1199SEIU members, hospital representatives, healthcare advocates and faith leaders gathered on the steps of the state house in late July to urge their Congressional delegation to stand strong in the face of potential Medicaid cuts. “My patients are not just numbers to me and I want them to not be just numbers to Washington, D.C.,” said Nadia Vilmont, a patient access representative at Boston Medical Center. Read more about the event.



In late July, Senator Mark Kirk’s capitol office in Springfield became a scene filled with dozens of SEIU members chanting “Show some guts; stop the cuts!” Read more about the Springfield action.


Veterans, seniors and other concerned citizens met up at outside the offices of Congressman Bill Johnson and Congressman John Boehner to protest proposed cuts. A group also rallied outside the office of Senator Rob Portman to voice their concerns about cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.



SEIU-UHW members at St. Francis Medical Center mobilized to speak with the media about why it’s important to have a deal that protects Medicaid for seniors, children and the disabled. Read more.


In Fresno, 500 healthcare workers rallied alongside concerned citizens outside the office of Rep. Jeffrey Denham (R-CA), to tell the congressman to prioritize job creation when Congress re-convenes in September after the August recess. “Congressman Denham campaigned on the promise of creating more jobs,” said SEIU-UHW VP Stan Lyles, “but he hasn’t voted for one single jobs bill.” Watch video here.


SenDarling_MedicaidMedicarefuneral.jpgIn Glendale, supporters staged a funeral procession, complete with a hearse and coffins, outside of Senator Alberta Darlings’ office. In spite of the fact that Medicaid and Medicare provide critical healthcare to hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents, Darling supports Paul Ryan’s extreme plan to undermine the nation’s historic health care commitments to seniors, children and people with disabilities.

“When it comes to issues that matter to working Wisconsin families, State Senator Alberta Darling is not on our side,” said Dian Palmer, RN, President of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin. Watch video of the procession.


SEIU members and seniors participated in rallies in Tallahassee and West Palm Beach. In West Palm Beach, activists from and the Florida Alliance of Retired Americans joined SEIU members gathering outside U.S. Representative Allen West’s office to protest West’s support for the “Cut, Cap, and Balance Act,” which would greatly diminish Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits for Floridians who need them the most.


Refocus: JOBS, not cuts

The debt ceiling deal was a last ditch attempt to avert financial disaster, but it by no means secures the future of Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is precisely why it’s time for unions and progressives mobilize their core activists and members even more for a series of bold actions on jobs that Congress can’t ignore.

We need a better vision of America, where we can work for a living, support our families, and retire with dignity. Simply put, working people need leaders to lead. But if we want Congress to show more courage to stand up and get serious about job creation, then we need to start showing more fight and displaying more courage ourselves.

You can get started right now by calling your member of Congress right now to tell them to focus on creating jobs for millions of workers and preserving the benefits of retirees. Send them a message here.

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SEIU local 509 opposses use of aversives

Last week,  SEIU Local 509 provided testimony to the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Disabilities opposing  the use of aversives behavioral interventions or “skin shock . There has been much public controversy over the Judge Rotenberg Centers use of electric shock as a form of punishment to some autistic, retarded, and emotionally troubled students.  The 509 membership attested to having extensive experience successfully working with individuals with severe behavioral disabilities through positive behavioral interventions without the need to resort to inhumane measures. SEIU 509 strongly opposed this punishment and joined in spirit with the United Nations, the Department of Justice, and the Attorney General, just to name a few, who have taken a strong position against the JRC’s use of skin shock.   The Local 509 stands strong in hope that soon the state will fully utilize positive behavioral supports and fully prohibit the use of skin shock.

You can download the letter from SEIU Local 509 President Susan Tousignant here.
In addition to this new rule, Representative Tom Sannicandro has introduced legislation banning the use of aversives and shock therapy in MA.

Below are links letters from other organization SEIU Local 509 joins in support of the new rule eliminating the use of aversives.

The Arc of Massachussetts


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SEIU Local 509 and Mental Health Advocates in the News

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.

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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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Local 509 Members Testify on CBFS Bill

  Local 509 members, staff, and allies testify before the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee.

Local 509 members, staff, and allies testify before the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee.

On May 17, Local 509 members testified in support of House Bill H1429 that would create an Oversight Commission for the state’s Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS) system. Joined by members of the mental health community and other allies, Local 509 members Sheelagh O’Connor (DMH) and Dennis MacDonald (Eliot) spoke of their experience working within the CBFS system and the need for more oversight and transparency in its administration.

Introduced by Rep. Jim O’Day, the bill (H1429) will:

  • Ensure that consumers are provided quality care, not slashed staffing or neglected crucial services.
  • Ensure that all stakeholder voices are heard, including consumers, family members, workers, providers, legislators, and DMH.
  • Look to maximize funding through Federal reimbursement strategies and incentives.
  • Review original outcome measures, not currently public information.
  • Evaluate relevant incident reports, safety concerns, and suicide data

Thanks to all 509 members and allies who attended and testified in support of the bill!

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