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As the Senate debates its FY’23 budget, effective July 1, decisions thus far have not reflected the toll on persons with disabilities. For example:

  • The House needed to add over $70 Million to the Governor’s proposal just to get the DDS Day Services budget to 85% capacity (with existing rates) and other needed supports.
  • The Senate Ways and Means also added to the disability-related line items.
  • Neither branch, NOR the Governor have increased salary benchmarks through our state agencies or MassHealth adequately to address what is now a chronic workforce crisis “on steroids” in our field.

Is it that our disability services have gone from cost-effective to low-cost and marginalized?

In last night’s “transportation listening session” for HST, I was distraught over much of what I heard.  But two stories come to mind – a professional who uses both the Human Services system (HST) and the RIDE.  A simple observation tells much of the story: the RIDE drivers are professional and their vehicles were clean. He couldn’t say the same for the other system.

It makes sense to me that everything about our adult service system has been damaged during COVID and its aftereffects.  Just as COVID severely affects or kills persons with underlying conditions, COVID may be grinding our community service system down.

A woman of 60 years can’t get to her day services for her main socialization except for once per week as the transportation carrier cannot get to her.  She also misses Easter and other holidays with her extended family as they do not have a wheelchair van and transportation didn’t or couldn’t get there.

As the business world talks about “Mobilize, Stabilize, Strategize”[i]in response to the pandemic crisis, our ‘diverse and varied’ services, an extension of the state, did mobilize, only some (organizations and families) will stabilize,  and none can strategize effectively without the partnership of the state’s decision-makers.

Please see the depth of our crisis and the undeniable thread that binds us together.

[i] PwC related site

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Carol says:

    I agree wholeheartedly.
    What I am hearing from legislators are these questions: help me understand why such a huge increase ($351 million in Chapter 257 reserve) over the Governor’s/House’s figure is needed; why wasn’t more workforce funding requested earlier, before the crisis reached this level of severity? And, didn’t the ARPA money address the workforce crisis adequately?

  • Ruth Nieves says:

    Good morning,
    I hope this email finds you well. I would like to introduce myself my name is Ruth Nieves and I work as a Case Manager of the CBDS program at Work Inc. I would like to share with you who I am and who we are and what we are doing in Work Inc. Work Inc is New England’s leading agency providing services to individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment.
    My mission and Work Inc’s mission are the same “OUR MISSION IS TO ENSURE THAT ALL INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES HAVE THE ABILITY TO GROW, THE RIGHT TO MAKE CHOICES, ACCESS TO EDUCATION, AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO PARTICIPATE IN COMMUNITY LIFE VIA MEANINGFUL WORK.
    We support the well-being and safety of many individuals who I give my support and many ways. From providing access to reliable transportation to creating memories for our members that will stay with them forever. One of the many tasks I do throughout the workweek is plan excursions for our participants that are both informational and recreational. By seeing the world around them, they can expand their minds and life experiences that lead to living a more fulfilling life. Here at Work Inc, we strive to make everyone comfortable and feel welcomed the second they walk through our doors.
    During this unprecedented moment, many of my peers in human services and I believe that our salaries are insufficient to cover our expenses and have a decent quality of life which is determined by state rates. We rent an apartment in the Greater Boston Area and have seen firsthand how the rent prices have been steadily increasing in the past few years. Pandemic-induced exhaustion and the rising cost of grocery shopping gas, and electric bills make our careers less viable. Unfortunately, right now we have struggled to bring quality service and that reflects daily on our work. We lose many of our staff, and participants monthly due to overturns and we don’t have many candidates willing to apply for a position in Human Service.
    Our job is to help people with behavioral health issues, and intellectual and developmental health issues. At this present time, our salary is insufficient and does not help to attract new candidates, especially considering wages are not competitive.
    To keep many agencies staffed and providing the care our most vulnerable neighbors need, the state must boost wages to just over $20 an hour – a fair, living wage. It will take $581 million in new state investment to reach this mark.
    We need your support for my peer for our families for our future, we would like to be counting on services to our vulnerable population and we can do it with your embrace for the people we serve by paying a fair wage for our human services professionals. I am looking forward to hearing from you and thank you for your time.

    • Jodi says:

      Thank you, Ms. Nieves, for your commitment and for sharing your experience. I hope we can get a budget passed that enables dedicated people like you to earn a decent a living wage.

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