Local elected officials join growing public outcry over agency CEO’s refusal to value critical mental health and crisis services in Western Massachusetts
NORTHAMPTON, MA – The Northampton City Council voted unanimously Thursday evening to support front-line clinicians and crisis workers in their fight for quality mental health care at locally-based Clinical & Support Options (CSO). Sponsored by Councilors Jesse Adams (At-Large), Maureen Carney (Ward 1) and Marianne LaBarge (Ward 6), the resolution sends a clear message that the City of Northampton stands with front-line mental health clinicians and crisis workers at CSO – urging agency managers to “reach a swift and fair resolution with adequate pay and benefits for mental health workers.” A copy of the full resolution is available here.
“We want quality jobs that will provide quality care with quality wages,” City Council President William Dwight told the Springfield Republican, adding that he hoped CSO managers were listening. “If management can hear it’s the community’s will, perhaps there will be an effect.”
The taxpayer-funded agency’s business practices have been the subject of months of escalating conflict. In April, clinicians and crisis workers staged demonstrations outside agency facilities to draw attention to near-poverty wages and severe workplace stress at CSO – serious challenges that have spurred high turnover that jeopardize the continuity and quality of client care. Despite the involvement of a Federal Mediator, agency managers rejected all attempts to address these grave issues, ultimately leading to a three-day strike for quality care in July. The unanimous City Council resolution marks the latest call in a growing public outcry over CSO management’s refusal to value critical mental health and crisis services in Western Massachusetts.
“Our elected leaders understand that the work we do at CSO is really vital to the health and safety of so many children and families in Western Mass,” said Andrew Berger, a Northampton-based Outpatient Clinician. “We need the support of the communities we serve to ensure our agency respects and values that critical work – to ensure our clients receive the quality care they deserve.”
Despite public calls for action, Clinical & Support Options managers have refused to engage in meaningful dialogue over the serious challenges faced by the taxpayer-funded agency. The non-profit’s CEO, Karin Jeffers, has yet to attend a single negotiation session with front-line staff, and has declined to schedule any future meetings.
More than 350 clinicians and crisis workers at Clinical & Support Options provide vital services to over 14,000 at-risk children and families each year – from emergency mental health interventions and gang violence prevention to sexual abuse trauma and addiction treatment. With operations in Amherst, Athol, Florence, Greenfield, Northampton, Orange, Pittsfield and Springfield, their work is critical to the safety and wellbeing of families in more than 100 cities and towns throughout Western Massachusetts.
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SEIU Local 509 represents more than 18,000 human service workers and educators throughout the commonwealth, including more than 1,000 front-line mental health professionals in Western Massachusetts. SEIU 509 members provide a variety of social services to elders, at-risk children and people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities — as well as educational opportunities from early learning to higher education. Local 509 is part of the Service Employees International Union, the fastest-growing labor union in the United States. For more information, visit http://seiu509.org.