On the heels of our court victory on CBFS just a few weeks ago, I write with disappointing news on the future of state-run Emergency Mental Health and Crisis Intervention Services in the Southeast Region.
On Friday, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued its ruling in our case to stop the privatization of programs in Southeastern Mass, the Cape and Islands, Service Employees International Union Local 509 vs. Auditor of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, the SJC ultimately deferred to Auditor Bump’s approval of the DMH privatization scheme, despite obvious flaws in the process and the negative impact on area families. Having exhausted our legal options to halt the process outright, it seems this ill-conceived plan will now move forward.
In her statement to reporters this weekend, our union president, Susan Tousignant, blasted the decision — and gave voice to what many of us on the front lines have felt for quite some time:
“Front-line clinicians have been clear in our view that any action that jeopardizes critical care for at-risk families is unconscionable — whether through unnecessary budget cuts or irrational policy initiatives. This holds especially true in a region that has been devastated by the opioid crisis and suicide rates that are four times the rest of the state.
“In deferring to the State Auditor’s illogical decision to allow cuts to vital services, the Supreme Judicial Court has played an unfortunate role in endangering the lives of thousands of children and adults throughout Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands.
“After ignoring months of warnings from front-line crisis clinicians, legislators, and affected families, Governor Baker and Auditor Bump must now accept the repercussions of their shared scheme to slash life-saving mental health and crisis intervention services throughout the Southeast Region.”
Given the significant gaps we all know need to be repaired in our broken mental health system, it remains terribly concerning that the Department has spent so much time and money on this harmful privatization effort. But now we must begin the work of addressing the impact of this unfortunate scheme — both on front-line staff and the communities we serve through our ESP and MCI programs.
Over the next few months, we will meet with DMH officials to discuss their next steps and work to mitigate the effects of any proposed layoffs related to the privatization effort. We are fortunate that our union contract contains strong language that grants employees threatened with layoffs very broad “bumping options” based on seniority. We expect many of the affected front-line workers in the region will be connected with comparable state positions soon.
We will certainly keep everyone posted with updates on our meetings and other available details regarding implementation of this plan. This is a difficulty time for all of us, so please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns in the meantime.
DMH Chapter President