February 2012

DCF Social Worker’s Efforts Featured in Lowell Sun Article

Eric Cousineau, a DCF social worker and Local 509 member based in Lowell, was featured in an article in today’s Lowell Sun about a program to assist young women who are aging out of the foster care program.

Click here to read the full article at the Lowell Sun

Leave a comment

DCF Chapter President’s Newsletter – February 2011

Brothers and Sisters,

I wanted to take a few minutes to give you some updates from the Union on what we’ve been working on.  As you all know, there has been a lot going.  Here are some updates:

ICPM/STS update – Bargaining continues on a busy schedule.  Selections of STS staff have been made, with some minor glitches.  Of the 174 STS positions to fill, there were 296 applicants (of those, 34 withdrew and 7 were found ineligible).  159 (91.4%) of the positions were filled with volunteers 15 (8.4%) of the positions were filled with involuntary reassignments.  The agency has been fairly accommodating to the Union’s requests on staffing and other issues, and as such, bargaining has been moving along.

We know that people moving into STS units will create the need to move other people into the “gaps” that were created.  No subsequent moves should have been made or announced at this time.  The Union requested, and DCF agreed at the table, that any subsequent moves that are needed as a result of the STS staff selection process will be done in a consistent fashion, and in consultation with the Union to ensure the contract is followed.  This is a topic being discussed at the bargaining table, and Local 509 has submitted a proposal that would allow for the most possible voluntary moves, in a manner consistent with the contract.  Upcoming bargaining sessions will cover the issue of filling staffing gaps and deal with the specifics on screening, the focused assessment, and focused service plan.

The Union has raised concerns, and continues to raise concerns, on the impact this will have on those “left over,” particularly ongoing workers and screeners in offices where screeners were selected or moved to the STS function.  We are deeply concerned that ongoing workers will be “slammed” with cases coming from STS-selected staff, and that the work and families we serve will suffer.

We have continued to ask that this process slow down and the start date be moved further into the future so that any moves can be done in as thoughtful a fashion as possible.  Despite these requests, DCF’s position is that the process should not slow down at this point and STS trainings for screeners have started and trainings for are being scheduled for STS social workers and supervisors.  The Union has also expressed concern over the relatively small number of locations for which the trainings are planned.  The Department still plans on moving forward, telling 509 that they will add trainings if needed.

As we have said to DCF, it makes more sense to make sure this transition into STS happens in a way that works, rather than rushing into it before we are ready.  While the Department has made clear that starting the STS units is a top priority and is apparently interested in doing so as quickly as possible (in other words, we know the Union cannot stop it from happening), the Union will continue to push to be sure that this process happens fairly, thoughtfully, and in a manner consistent with the contract.

Group 2 update – As people have seen in the email update sent a couple of weeks ago, we are planning a massive lobby day for March 15, 2012 at the Statehouse.  The Union will be providing buses from areas far from Boston.  The Regional Vice Presidents are tracking attendance and helping coordinate where we need the most buses, how many are needed, etc.

The Group 2 Video should be done within a week or so.  We are making a final edit to be sure the video is on message for what the Legislature needs to hear, and we are planning the “premiere” for the Statehouse on March 15.

This lobby day begins the final push to get the bill passed before the end of the legislative session.  We need as many Local 509 members to be in Boston on the 15th as possible, so please do everything you can to be sure people in your office attend.  As a reminder, you must use vacation or personal time to attend.

Grievance Processing –Local 509 President Susan Tousignant is tasking each chapter with identifying one or two people to be “point people” to deal with the backlog of grievances and to help ensure that grievances move along as they should.  For Chapters with a Secretary of Grievances, that person will be the “point person.”  For DCF, our Secretary of Grievances is Khrystian King, a social worker in the Worcester East office.  Adrianna Zwick, a steward and Chapter Board Member from the Arlington DCF office, will also be a part of this process for DCF.  Stewards should continue to send grievances to the Union Office and your regional VP to ensure they are logged appropriately for tracking purposes at the Union Office.  Secretary of Grievances King met on February 16 at the Union office with field staff to begin the process of moving grievances along in a timely manner.

The Technology Committee met with DCF management on February 16, 2012 to go over issues related to technology, such as iFamily Net and the phone/voicemail system.

Hotline staff in all regions were told that they will be required to log on to iFamily Net from home when they are working the hotline.  Central office has made clear this is NOT the case.  No one will be allowed to access iFamily Net from home, at least for now, and not without bargaining with the Union.  There is an interest on both sides to allow VOLUNTARY access for staff from the field (i.e., their home) but SEVERAL issues must be addressed first at the bargaining table such as confidentiality, liability, and ensuring staff who do log on from home are compensated appropriately.  The Union is putting together a committee of OCSs and ERWs to work on this.  If you are interested, contact Peter MacKinnon.

iFamily Net reportedly has a number of fixes to bugs in Family Resource screens and has a number of new features for intake/investigation/some case management.  DCF has acknowledged that the current voice mail system does not work, and will be replacing the system, which should be done by June.

There was also a supplemental budget passed that included more money for computers, and now DCF will be getting 3,300 or so new computers.  This is almost a one-for-one number of computers for ALL DCF employees.  Bear in mind, even when we were only slated for 2,000 new computers, they were ALL going to go to Local 509 staff in the area offices.  The computers are leased (not purchased) for four years, which means we will get new computers every four years.  DCF is also beginning to look at new technologies (iPads, MobiPens, etc), in large part at the urging of the Union, that staff could use in the field.   The Technology Committee will meet quarterly with DCF to discuss technology issues.

As we continue to work all of these issues, we continue to keep you, our members in mind.  I wish to extend my thanks and gratitude, on behalf of myself and the Regional Vice Presidents, for your feedback, thoughts, and patience as we all move forward together during this difficult time of change.  Please let us know your questions, thoughts and suggestions.

In Unity,

Peter MacKinnon
DCF Chapter President
SEIU Local 509

Leave a comment

Supplemental Budget Signed by Governor Patrick

We’re happy to announce that last week Governor Patrick signed the supplemental budget that included the 1.5% raises that State Employees negotiated in the Alliance Contract 11-13!

Over the last week we’ve been working with the Office of Employee Relations (OER) to determine when these raises will be reflected in our checks and when we will receive the retro pay for the first part of this year.

Today we informed by OER that, “The rate change will be reflected in the 3/30 pay advice and include the pay period 3/11-3/24. The 1/1/12-3/10/12 retroactive piece will be contained in the first pay advice in April.”

Thank you to all of the members who called and emailed their legislators to make sure that the budget passed.

Leave a comment

Childcare Providers Attend Senate Candidates Forum

Isabel Frias and Celina Reyes with Elizabeth Warren

I had the opportunity to attend the SEIU Senate Forum and was invited by organizers from SEIU, of which I belong.  We are working together to reach our dreams as educators of family child care.

Joseph Kennedy: He is a candidate for Congress.  Following the legacy of his family in MA but he is still very conscious of the hard work that has to be done and he knows that he will need more than just his last name to win!

At this forum, I was able to realize that Joseph Kennedy is a young man who is capable of doing the work, is very mature, knows how to reach his community, and recognizes the importance of the Hispanic vote.  For me, it was very surprising that his first words to the group were in Spanish!  I feel very proud that the politicians of the future are taking the time to learn my language.  I wish him the best of luck in his candidacy.

Elizabeth Warren: Harvard Law Professor.  Well prepared person who has the tools to keep molding the future of education for our young children.  She seems very accessible to her community and I even had the opportunity to take a picture with her!  I wish her good luck in her candidacy.

Marisa DeFranco: She is an expert in immigration law and has offered her services free of charge to her community.  In this matter, she has understood the feeling of our youth that are waiting for immigration reform so that they can reach their dreams of going to college.  Much luck to her.

See the full set of photos from the event

Leave a comment

Local 509 Files Lawsuit Calling for Re-Hire of DMH Case Managers

Today, Wednesday the 15th, we will be filing suit against the Department of Mental Health in Suffolk County Superior Court. With this lawsuit, we are looking to secure the re-hire of the DMH case managers that were laid off in 2009.

During the privatization of case management duties in 2009, the department ignored their responsibilities under the state’s privatization regulations, commonly known as the Pacheco Law. The layoff of over 100 DMH case managers has had a serious impact on the services that individuals with mental illness receive in our state.

With the support of our allies at the Disability Law Center, MPower, mental health caregivers in the Local 509 Private Sector Human Services chapter, and the whole of Local 509, the DMH chapter is hopeful that these case managers will be re-hired.

Follow these links to view our press release and the details of the lawsuit

As the lawsuit progresses, we will work stewards and local union officers to get updates to the membership.

Leave a comment

Press Release on DMH Lawsuit

February 15, 2011 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Aaron Donovan for SEIU Local 509
Cell: 617 678-9197 adonovan@seiu509.org

Union files lawsuit over the Privatization of DMH Case Management Services

WATERTOWN – The shifting of state case management duties to the private agencies and the accompanying layoffs of over 100 case managers has caused a serious break in the continuity of service for many of the state’s individuals living with mental illness.

Mental Health advocates, community organizations and human service workers are uniting for the re-hire of case managers that were laid off during the privatization of services in 2009.

“We were troubled when 100 case managers were abruptly let go, causing relationships with clients to be abruptly severed,” said Rick Glassman of the Disability Law Center, a private, non-profit organization responsible for providing protection and advocacy for the rights of Massachusetts residents with disabilities. “DLC is concerned that the Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS) model adopted thereafter has lacked the staffing and resources necessary to provide quality community based options for people with mental health needs, required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Caregivers represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 509 have filed suit regarding the legality of the privatization arrangement that the Department of Mental Health (DMH) established with the layoffs.

Proposals for privatization in Massachusetts must be submitted to the Office of the State Auditor in accordance with Chapter 296 of the acts of 1993, commonly known as the “Pacheco Law.” Despite this requirement, when DMH contracted-out these services, the agency ignored a finding of the auditor’s office, creating a fractured system and leaving many of the state’s most vulnerable citizens cut off from experienced case managers who had provided them services for years.

DMH Case managers coordinate, monitor and provide services for individuals with mental illness. They provide essential support services that allow these individuals to live as independently as possible in the least restrictive setting.

“When DMH transferred case management duties to the private sector and laid off all of those case managers, it really created a disruption in services and a loss in the community,” said Paul Desaulniers, a union steward and private-sector caregiver in Pittsfield. “Bringing those experienced case managers back would restore vital services to the individuals we care for.”

SEIU Local 509 is a labor union representing over 13,000 public and private sector human service workers across Massachusetts.

Leave a comment

Giving voice to slain social worker

Milton Valencia, BOSTON GLOBE

In the year since, family asks change in group homes

For the past year, Stephanie Moulton’s parents have waited in legislative hearings, wearing buttons bearing her name. They have sat in the front row of the courtroom during hearings for the man accused of killing her, even when he was not there, so she can still have a voice.

On a recent day in Suffolk Superior Court, Deshawn James Chappell seemed to look back at them and made it all worse.

With a new court-appointed lawyer recently appointed to Chappell’s case, Kimberly Flynn and Bob Moulton will have to wait even longer before the case is resolved.

“It’s head-banging,” her mother said in a recent interview as the family prepared for several vigils in her memory. “I just feel she’s getting lost in all this.”

Justice, the family has realized in the year since Chappell allegedly killed Moulton at the mental health group home where she worked, has moved far more slowly than any of them would have liked, ensnared in a labyrinth of legal procedure and government bureaucracy.

In the last year, the family has proposed a bill, to be called Stephanie’s Law, which calls for installation of panic alarms in mental health facilities. That proposal lingers in a committee.

The union that represents social workers has been pushing for a bill that would improve the oversight of community group homes. That legislation, introduced just weeks before the killing, has also stalled.

And the state Department of Mental Health said it is still reviewing recommendations of a safety task force that it created after the killing.

Moulton’s family members and a close-knit community of mental health workers who support them plan three vigils across the state today, which would have been her 26th birthday, to call attention to the tragedy and the cracks they are hoping to fill. They say too much time has passed.

“We just don’t want anyone to forget Stephanie,” her mother said. “We don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”

Moulton’s father added, “It’s Stephanie’s voice.”

The killing occurred Jan. 20, 2011. Moulton, an aspiring nursing student who was engaged to be married, was months into her job as a social worker at a group home in Revere run by the North Suffolk Mental Health Association, a state contractor.

Chappell was 27, had a history of mental illness and violence, including the vicious beating of his stepfather, for which he served a prison sentence. According to court records, his family raised concerns with the group home days before the slaying that he was not taking his prescribed medications.

Moulton knew none of his history and was in the home with him alone.

Chappell stabbed her in the neck several times, prosecutors have said in court. He dragged her to her Chrysler PT Cruiser, and drove her to a parking lot behind St. George Greek Orthodox Home in Lynn, where he left her body partially clad, law enforcement officials said.

His initial attorney, Jeffrey T. Karp, planned to argue that Chappell was not guilty by reason of insanity. Karp expressed sympathy for the Moulton family but also said that Chappell’s mental health examiners should have realized the dangers once they learned that he had stopped taking his medication.

“The system failed both of them, especially her,” Karp said recently.

The Moulton family has filed a lawsuit against the North Suffolk Mental Health Association, arguing that the agency had no system in place for alerting employees to potentially violent clients.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in a rare action taken against a social services company, fined North Suffolk $7,000 for failure to provide a safe work environment, the maximum penalty allowed. The association has appealed the fine.

The OSHA violation raised some of the same issues that were identified by a task force the Department of Mental Health commissioned after the killing of Moulton and the stabbing death a week later of a Lowell homeless shelter worker, Jose Roldan.

Both groups cited a need for changes, including the development of proper safety standards for hospitals and for group homes, better training programs, and more spending on care.

“These were systemic issues,” said Toby Fisher, senior field policy specialist for the Service Employees International Union, the labor organization that represents care workers, who was a nonvoting member of the task force. He said a priority should be a new standard for assessing patients and sharing that information. That has not happened.

Paul F. Healy Jr., a retired first justice of Framingham District Court who cochaired the task force, said in an interview that the group sought to balance a client’s right to privacy with the safety of patients and their caseworkers.

He stressed that the majority of patients do not pose any threat to safety. But he also said he found that the system is unable to hold its clients accountable to requirements such as taking medication, something to which he, as a judge, was not accustomed.

The judge said members of the task force differed on points in the report. But all agreed that changes should be immediate and that more funding should be directed to mental health.

“The recommendations would go a long way to possibly preventing something like this, and that’s what we tried to do,” the judge said.

North Suffolk released a statement saying it could not comment on matters before the courts, but that the task force sparked a discussion about safety.

“The safety of staff and clients is, and has been, a priority,” the statement said. “The tragedy of last Jan. 20 stays with us, as we know it does with the families of Stephanie and all those involved.”

Debra Pinals, acting deputy commissioner for clinical and professional services at the Department of Mental Health, is cochairwoman of a working group the department commissioned to review the task force’s recommendations.

Several recommendations have already been incorporated, she said. The department immediately provided training programs for staff and created jail diversion programs to better identify patients in need of care.

She said her working group is collaborating with vendors to review safety protocol and is reviewing recommendations such as whether to conduct background checks on patients and how to share that information.

But she stressed that the department has had to prioritize what changes it could implement in the time since the recommendations were made, according to available funding and the time it takes to properly review them.

Pinals said the department welcomes a proposed increase of more than 3 percent in its budget for next year, at $648 million, but overall spending is still far behind past years. The state spent $685 million for mental health care in 2009, for instance.

The Moulton family is focused on a much more modest figure: about $15 a month. That, according to the family, is what it would cost for a panic alarm that could be placed in a home such as the one where Moulton worked to connect a worker or resident directly to an operator.

Flynn said she understands the complexity of the legislative process and the time needed to assess proposed changes. She understands the criminal justice system, the need for a fair trial.

But if her daughter had known Chappell’s background, she would not have stayed alone with him, Flynn said. If someone else had known, they probably would not have let her, she added.

Flynn was frustrated at the recent court hearing, when a judge asked if Chappell understood what was happening and whether he agreed. “He had this look on his face, like it didn’t matter what he did,” she said.

Original Article

Leave a comment

Springfield vigil in memory of slain mental health case worker Stephanie Moulton will call for state action


Human service workers, city officials and others will gather Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., at the City Hall plaza at Court Square for a vigil in memory of Stephanie Moulton of Peabody, a case worker who was slain in Revere in January 2011, allegedly by a mental health client.

Candlelight vigils are being conducted in Springfield, Peabody and New Bedford.

Those who are gathering at the vigils will rally to demand that the state take immediate action to protect them and to improve the quality of mental health services, organizers said in a prepared release. City Council President James J. Ferrera III and state Rep. Cheryl A. Coakley-Rivera, D-Springfield, are among the expected participants.

Original Article

Leave a comment

DOR Chapter Update – February 2012

The DOR Chapter continues to hold its regular monthly Chapter Board meetings and regularly scheduled Labor Management meetings,If you have an issue that needs attention please let one of the Chapter officers know so we can schedule it for discussion.

This year is shaping up to be a very active and important year for Unions politically as many candidates are openly calling for taking away Unions hard won rights, be sure to learn all you can about someone running for office before you vote.

The Chapter board recently met with Union legal staff (thank you Kate Shea) regarding Civil Service which seems to be the fairest way to administer the promotional process. Exams are given and a list formulated based on passing marks. We would like to hear how the membership feels on this subject before we try to take it further.

We have set up a meeting with Kate Shea a Union Attorney to discuss the problems facing those who have been denied reclassification. The meeting is scheduled for March 1 in Watertown, release time should be available for a few member from each office to attend.
Hopefully some valuable insight can be gained into the classification process.
Unfortunately the line seems to be drawn that case management is an A/B position,
as I have mentioned before we have brought this issue up at Labor/Management, OER, contract talks, and Civil Service to no avail.

Recently there was a lot of wasted negative energy out there about having to wait a few weeks for funding of the new 1.5% pay increase. This is just normal practice as funding needs to be approved at the start of a new contract. I hope these same members will devote half that energy to Union causes. Remember your Union is only as strong as you want it to be, it is in unity that we get things done.

The Local will be offering monthly member education on different topics of use to stewards and members at locations throughout the state. One program of special interest will cover how to supervise and be a good Union member, I hope everyone in a supervisory position will plan to attend. Various levels of stewards training should also be offered. Union release time is available for attendance at these sessions so watch the Union web site for details and sign up.

It’s great to see so many promotional and transfer positions available at DOR. We have been asking for upward movement and worker transfers for a while now and I know members are pleased that management was finally able to respond. We expect to see the transfer process continue.

If you would like to become active in the Union at any level please get in touch.

All the best

John Tortelli

Leave a comment