When I began at The Arc of Massachusetts in late 1991, a transition was underway at the Governor’s office as Bill Weld was in his first year as Governor. The House leader, Charlie Flaherty, was recently elected by peers as Speaker, while the Senate’s William Bulger would continue as President until 1996.
Speakers Robert DeLeo and Ron Mariano were in their first terms as State Representatives, while Tom Finneran had recently been appointed House Chair of Ways and Means. And Charlie Baker had recently been appointed as Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services.
People make a difference. This is true in elected office and politics as it is in all aspects of our society.
Yesterday, when Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito announced that they would not seek a third term, I was struck with two different reactions.
First, appreciation for Charlie Baker’s leadership and appointees such as Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders.
Our hopes are never fully attained, but as I look beyond the current crisis, I see the positives reflected by his administration, to name a few:
- Rightsizing Turning 22 funding
- A focus on family supports including family preservation efforts such as the Departments of Education and Developmental Services (DESE-DDS) partnership
- Advancing Technology and supporting the establishment of the Disabled Persons Protection Commission registry
- A rate increase of 10% for residential services days before the COVID-19 shutdown
- Implementing our legislature’s embrace of autism omnibus and other initiatives
In comparison to other eras, for example, the 1990s, when The Arc felt obliged to advocate in the courts, the Baker-Polito period in collaboration with legislative leaders will be regarded as one of achievements and responsiveness.
The announcement also means we will experience a hectic political scene over the next year. This is when you can make a difference by communicating with the teams of candidates to educate them about the needs of persons with disabilities and the work still to be completed: such as, workforce, health equity and equity in general for all populations, advancing self-direction, the use of supports and technology for our constituents, and social inclusion.
And we’re not forgetting those perhaps 5,000 people and families in our state who have not yet benefitted from a full return to the services or supports they need. That’s priority 1, and it’s related not only to the workforce but systemic changes which can alleviate the present pain.
So there is much work to do with our legislature and administration in the days and weeks ahead.
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I recall Mary Lou talking about your predecessor Phil Campbell and her going in to see the new EOHHS Secretary and probably planting seeds that helped produce a Governor who was more well versed in disability policy than any other in the last 30 years. Time for stakeholders to get back to work educating the next occupant of the corner office!