Franklin County elected officials join Northampton colleagues in demanding a fair, strong contract for Western Mass clinicians and crisis workers
GREENFIELD, MA – The Greenfield Town Council voted late Wednesday to support front-line clinicians and crisis workers in their fight for quality mental health care at the local branch of Clinical & Support Options (CSO). Authored by Council Vice President Karen Rudy Renaud (Precinct 6), the resolution sends a clear message that the Town of Greenfield stands with mental health workers who provide critical care – urging agency managers to “reach a swift and fair resolution that demonstrates a true commitment to mental health services and those who provide them.”
“Like so many cities and towns in the region, Greenfield is struggling with an opioid crisis and all the serious challenges that come with it,” City Council Vice President Rudy Renaud said at Wednesday’s meeting. “Our community is standing up to say that addiction and crisis services are more important than ever, and we expect to see that critical work valued. It’s time for CSO to come back to the table and reach a fair agreement.”
The Greenfield resolution marks the latest call in a growing public outcry over the taxpayer-funded agency’s refusal to value essential mental health and crisis services in Western Massachusetts. City Councilors in Northampton voted unanimously to forward their own resolution in support of CSO mental health workers just last week, with local community members sending more than 1,500 messages of concern to the agency’s Board of Directors and CEO. Clinicians and crisis workers staged their first demonstrations outside agency facilities in April 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. Agency managers rejected all attempts to address these grave issues in the ensuing months, ultimately leading to July’s three-day strike for quality care.
“Those of us on the front lines work day-in, day-out to help some of the most at-risk children and adults in the region,” said Rabbi Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor based at CSO’s Greenfield facility. “This resolution makes it clear that the Town of Greenfield understands how vital our work is to the health and safety of our community – and that they support mental health workers in our efforts to ensure our clients receive the highest possible quality of care.”
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