FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Contact: Jason A Stephany, (617) 286-4430, firstname.lastname@example.org
WATERTOWN, MA – The Massachusetts Human Service Workers Union, SEIU Local 509, released the following statement today regarding State Auditor Suzanne Bump’s approval of cuts to Emergency Mental Health, Mobile Crisis Intervention and Substance Abuse services throughout Southeastern Massachusetts. The statement is attributable to union president Susan Tousignant.
“In a region that has been devastated by the opioid crisis and suicide rates that are four times the rest of the state, any action that jeopardizes critical care for at-risk families is unconscionable. The State Auditor’s decision to slash vital mental health and crisis intervention services defies logic – and endangers the lives of thousands of children and adults throughout Southeastern Massachusetts, the Cape and Islands.
“Front-line mental health clinicians and substance abuse workers will continue to fight to maintain these critical state-run services for individuals and families throughout the region.”
The Commonwealth’s Emergency Service Program (ESP) and Mobile Crisis Intervention (MCI) units provide vital mental health and substance abuse services to more than 70 cities and towns throughout Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands. These longstanding initiatives place more than 140 clinicians and crisis workers on the front lines each day to intervene in severe cases where children and adults pose a danger to themselves or others in the community. Last year alone, these combined programs served more than 5,700 at-risk clients and their families — including nearly 1,700 children.
The plan approved today by State Auditor Suzanne Bump would significantly slash life-saving emergency and crisis intervention services throughout the Southeast Region — including a 28% reduction in the number of licensed mental health clinicians and a 32% cut to medical professionals. The number of client advocates who help parents and families work through mental health and substance abuse challenges, would be cut by more than half. Licensing requirements for service providers would be eliminated altogether.
If implemented as written, these drastic cuts stand to disrupt client care, extend wait times and expose area communities to unpredictable risk. A broad, bipartisan coalition of legislators, community leaders, affected families, and mental health and substance abuse advocates strongly opposes the move.
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SEIU Local 509 represents more than 19,000 human service workers and educators throughout the commonwealth, including front-line emergency mental health and crisis intervention clinicians at the Department of Mental Health. 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.
Contact your State Senator today regarding a key vote to maintain emergency services at the Department of Mental Health.
The personal stories of workers featured in the above video paint a clear picture of what’s at stake in House Bill 59 — Governor Deval Patrick’s proposed changes to retiree healthcare. Simply put, HB59 goes to far.
Under House Bill 59, workers just two or three years from retirement could see the rules changed so drastically they would have to work another 22 years to receive promised benefits. The legislation has its biggest impact on low-wage workers, and offers no real cost-saving measures other than spiking out-of-pocket expenses for seniors – meaning future retirees will bear 100% of the cost burden of these reforms. Even worse, HB59 penalizes workers who must take a leave of absence for the birth of a child or death of a loved one.
That’s why hundreds of workers across the commonwealth are taking action to educate their legislators about the negative impact of House Bill 59 — testifying at public hearings, sending letters to Representatives and Senators, and meeting face-to-face with key legislative leaders. You can take action today to protect retiree healthcare.
State contract negotiations are already in full swing, and Local 509 members are more prepared than ever for the potential fight ahead. Dozens of leaders prepped at Bargaining Team caucus meetings, and more than 1,700 members responded to our contract survey –- sharing their ideas, concerns and priorities for the upcoming negotiation sessions. This trove of information will serve as the foundation for many of the proposals we put forward in the coming weeks, and we are fired up and ready to go!
The first Alliance Contract negotiation session took place on July 31, and Local 509 members put their solidarity on full display. Thousands of state workers rocked their ‘Fair Contract NOW’ stickers to send management a clear message: let’s get this thing done! (Check out the Local 509 Facebook Page to see a few of the many photos members sent in throughout the day.)
With so much at stake in this contract — from wages to benefits to working conditions — it’s incredibly important that as many workers as possible get engaged in the negotiation process. A quick and easy way to get involved is to sign up for the Contract Action Team (CAT) for your chapter/worksite. As a CAT member, you’ll communicate important negotiation updates to co-workers at your worksite and help mobilize members for key contract actions as the process moves forward.
Workers have set a goal of building a 750-member CAT team in the coming weeks, so there’s no shortage of opportunities to make a difference. Together we can win a strong contract for all state workers!
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.
STATE HOUSE NEWS – Thirteen members of a task force convened after community-based mental health worker Stephanie Moulton was murdered in January are calling on the state to significantly increase funding in next year’s state budget.
In a letter Wednesday to Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby, the task force members say their recommendations, released in June, point to the link between public funding of the mental health services system, the safety of workers and the quality of services provided to individuals with mental illnesses. The letter, signed by officials representing SEIU 509, the Pine Street Inn, The Providers’ Council and other groups, said funding increases beyond a $20 million increase this fiscal year are necessary over five years to implement the task force’s recommendations. Describing a system they say has been “decimated” and will take years to rebuild, signers cited a National Alliance on Mental Illness report asserting overall funding for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health has been cut by more than $55 million since fiscal 2009.
The Executive Office of Health and Human Services will host a 2 p.m. hearing Friday on fiscal 2013 budget issues at the Agganis Arena at Boston University. 4:20 p.m.
Today, state workers voted overwhelmingly to ratify their contract!
3252 – YES
212 – NO
8 – blank
237 – YES
4 – NO
Thanks to all of the poll captains and volunteers who staffed the 26 balloting sites across the state. Your hard work was instrumental in making today’s vote a smooth process.
To see the details of the newly ratified settlement, click here to read the Memorandum of Understanding