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