- Sanford who is able to work and know that his parent his healthy thanks to the services at Bay Cove’s Kit Clark Senior Services
- Rose who found emergency shelter through Pine Street Inn and is learning skills that will help her find employment through PSI’s social enterprise, Abundant Table
- Melanie who loves her job as a direct support professional at Work, Inc. and shared the struggles she and her peers face due to underfunded contracts that don’t provide adequate compensation
- Ricardo Quiroga, executive director of Casa Esperanza, who shared the challenges and tough choices that he, his employees, and countless other providers face due to skyrocketing health insurance premiums
Providers’ Council President/CEO Michael Weekes and Public Policy Chair John Larivee highlighted solutions that legislators can take to ensure these critical services continue to serve the most vulnerable residents in Massachusetts, including:
- enabling providers to direct more funding toward programs and services through creative affordable health insurance solutions
- professionalizing and retaining a skilled workforce through expanded educational opportunities
- diversifying revenue and reducing dependence on state contracts by fostering innovation and social enterprise
- rewarding and retaining low-paid caregivers through the Salary Reserve
Speaking about the importance of the Salary Reserve, Weekes said, "We don’t want them [direct care professionals] to be one paycheck away from being the folks they serve."
Regarding the Council’s no-cost proposals to address soaring health insurance costs, Weekes said, "helping providers save money, you also save money for the state. It’s a win-win-win situation [and] it allows us to do what you want us to do, which is provide more services instead of paying more premiums."
Attendees also heard from their legislators (click the links for videos of their remarks), including Representatives Angelo Scaccia, Liz Malia, Carlos Henriquez, Ed Coppinger, and Tackey Chan. We appreciate that Speaker of the House Robert Deleo, Senators John Hart and Sonia Chang-Diaz, and Representatives Marty Walsh and Gloria Fox sent staff to represent their offices.
Each official sent the same message to attendees loud and clear: providers must get more engaged in advocating for themselves and their clients and be a constant presence on Beacon Hill.
"Twenty-five percent of the legislature this year is brand new; 40 percent is less than two years. Those are the people you have to go after. Those are the people who if you can instill your knowledge and your work ethic, they’ll respond. … We have to change the priorities in this state," Rep. Angelo Scaccia said.
"You’ve got to come up and you’ve got to tell us about what you’re doing and what you need. … It’s some of those folks in the outside world who don’t understand the benefits of what you provide for society. … We have to see your faces; we have to hear your voices; the time for silence is over. You’re nice people, and that’s your problem, you’re nice people and you don’t speak loud enough, ok? You have to do that." Rep. Scaccia continued.
"We need your help to talk about what alternatives there are. If we can’t do something like an alcohol tax, if we can’t increase tobacco taxes, if we can’t increse the income tax, what solution do we have? … Stay in touch. We’re going to have a couple of tough months ahead, but let us know what you’re hearing and what kind of affects your clients are facing" Rep. Malia said.
"You have Charlton, you have Uxbridge, you have Newburyport, you have all those other state reps who might not understand disabilities and your stories … What we’re asking is that you have to come to the Hill. You’re preaching to the choir; you need to reach the congregation because that’s where it is. We need your voices in all the other offices that don’t understand your stories," said Mary-dith Tuitt on behalf of Rep. Gloria Fox.
Rep. Carlos Henriquez drew on his own experience as a a teen youth worker and expressed his support for our legislative efforts saying, "I wanted to let you know that you don’t need to come looking for me because I’m on board. I spent the last two years before becoming elected as a teen youth worker … I know what it means to be in love with the work that you do and know that it means peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every night."
Henrquiez also echoed other calls for providers to share their stories with elected officials as well as the public, saying "As far as your stories, I cannot jump on that enough. As a community organizer, it’s not only important to tell your stories to your elected officials … tell those stories to people in your community and have them echo those stories to your elected officials as well."
Rep. Ed Coppinger shared his own anecdote of coming to realize just how critical and taken for granted human services are based on his own life and the people he knows who have been touched by the sector.
Rep. Tackey Chan, a board member of Work, Inc. and someone who has founded, worked for, and volunteered with numerous nonprofit organizations also shared his thoughts on the challenges and opportunities facing the human service sector.