In unanimous vote, local elected officials join colleagues in Northampton, Greenfield in demanding a strong contract for Western Mass clinicians and crisis workers
SPRINGFIELD, MA – On the eve of what is expected to be a final negotiation session with agency management, the Springfield City Council voted unanimously Monday 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 Orlando Ramos, the resolution sends a clear message that the City of Springfield stands with mental health workers who provide critical care – urging agency managers to return to the table “to reach a fair resolution that appropriately values these vital services and those who provide them.”
“The opioid epidemic is at the forefront of the local and national debate. These are the people who provide the services we need to tackle that crisis,” said City Council Vice President Orlando Ramos at Monday’s meeting. “We’re calling on Clinical & Support Options to negotiate in good faith with mental health and crisis workers – to value their important work.”
The Springfield 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 unanimously passed their own resolution in support of CSO mental health workers in September, following similar action by the Greenfield Town Council in August. Community members throughout the region have sent more than 1,500 messages of concern to the agency’s Board of Directors and CEO as well.
“As mental health and crisis workers, we’re out in the community every single day working with some of Springfield’s most at-risk and vulnerable populations,” said Chassity Crowell-Miller, an outpatient clinician based at CSO’s Springfield facility. “This resolution sends a clear message that our elected leaders understand the importance of our work, and believe CSO must do more to support us in our efforts to keep communities safe and healthy.”
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.
“The fact that these people are doing such critical work in our community and earning less than $15 an hour is unacceptable,” said Councilor Melvin Edwards. “The least CSO management can do is negotiate in good faith and come to a fair resolution.”
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. A final negotiation session has been scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, October 6.
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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