This week, Governor Charlie Baker announced that Massachusetts will “reopen some outdoor Phase 4, Step 2 industries effective May 10th and put plans in place for further reopening on May 29th and August 1st.” What wasn’t said is very important to our community: When will re-opening of our community day and employment services take place?
We know that the Department of Public Health may not be ready to make that prediction yet, but it is on the horizon. Given the needs, it’s vital that planning begin to ensure a smooth and unhampered return to our day and employment services.
But there are barriers in the way to a prompt and well-planned return: ensuring that our constituents, caregivers and staff are vaccinated; transportation; budget; and the availability of our trained workforce.
Massachusetts is trending positively in vaccine distribution, but vaccine access for many of our constituents was not prioritized; the access issue should be resolved over the next several weeks.
Transportation delayed the partial re-opening of many of our day settings, which also caused delays in the return to employment at community businesses. It’s a system which had demonstrated shortcomings prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. It requires positive change. Presently, there is a difference of opinion regarding such change between legislators and the administration. These differences need to be resolved sooner than later and should be based on the needs of our constituents (and other disability groups are also affected) sooner than later.
The state FY’22 budget total for Day and Employment Services is predicated on re-opening being considerably delayed. If that supposition holds for a few months, funding availability will not deter the re-opening. If the timeline moves up, a supplemental budget for additional funds will be required.
Related to the budget is the workforce shortage at day and employment services. We have reported on this issue for some time.
- On April 12, we had colleagues from New York and Indiana share their workforce shortage crisis; you can watch that conversation here.
- On Monday, May 3, New Jersey’s Tom Baffuto will join me to talk about workforce, COVID, and other policy issues – you can register here.
- ADDP is pulling together a vacancy report – providers have stated they will need months to recruit the workforce.
- A major driver of workforce shortage is that staff wages are not commensurate with staff responsibilities.
Advance notice of re-opening and planning is essential. Dawn and James, who are supported by the Brockton Area Arc, shared how much they want to return fulltime in March: you can hear them here.
Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) are an extension of the state’s responsibility and commitment to people with disabilities. Although much of HCBS is delivered by private, non-profit agencies, it’s the responsibility of our Commonwealth to ensure that our constituents are able to return to their day settings and other services as the state re-opens.