The “Weight of Waiting” video was part of the Northeast Advocacy Legislative Breakfast that Incompass hosted with a coalition of other human service agencies on March 31, 2023. These are but three stories of countless ones just like it across the state and even within Incompass.
Peter Orrall and Lisa Tulipani Orrall – Northeast Arc
Judith Montes de Oca – NFI Massachusetts, Inc.
Donald Duggan Jr., and Diana Slaney-Duggan – NFI Massachusetts, Inc.
On Friday, March 31, Incompass Human Services joined eight other northeastern MA human service agencies to hold an advocacy breakfast, calling on legislators to meet the growing demands in human services. The event’s theme was the “Weight of Waiting,” which aimed to demonstrate how the lack of access to critical human services is having detrimental effects on individuals and families in the Commonwealth. The quality of life and livelihoods of the vulnerable population we support are being threatened, and we must do better.
An enormous thank you to everyone who attended and all those who continue to advocate on behalf of the population we serve. Our collective goal as part of this breakfast was to advocate for support of Governor Healy’s proposed budget and the continued need for more resources to address the needs of human services organizations and those we serve, many of who are still waiting to return to services after the pandemic.
Though events like these only happen a few times a year, advocacy never stops. Agencies like ours can’t afford to take a break while we are hearing cries from families while simultaneously coping with a staffing crisis.
Senator Joan Lovely had this to say, ” I’m honored to offer remarks at the Northeast Human Service Providers Legislative Breakfast on behalf of the #NorthShoreMA delegation to thank our human service workers for their dedication to the critical work helping assisting our most vulnerable residents. I will continue to advocate for improved wages for these valuable workers.” Her support of the bills on Beacon Hill that will lead to a living wage for all of the human service workers in the state means so much!
Incompass CEO, and event MC, Jean Phelps offered some profound words on the “Weight of Waiting” and the “profound impact of being a caregiver.” Representative Sally Kerans echoed those same sentiments while sitting on the legislative panel, “We value the legacy of people who care for our loved ones.”
The highlight of the morning was the premiere the “Weight of Waiting” video that highlighted three families from Northeast Arc, and NFI Massachusetts, Inc. There wasn’t a dry eye in the building as the families shared their struggles. Our advocacy efforts are that much more impactful when we can highlight real life stories. We are incredibly grateful to the families for sharing such vulnerable moments with us. The video will be shared separately, so be sure to check it out!
More than 100 people came together at the Black Box Theatre to advocate for the human services workforce
PEABODY, MA – On Friday, April 1, Incompass Human Services joined six other northeast Massachusetts human services agencies to host elected officials at the annual “Northeast Human Services Advocacy Breakfast” at the Black Box Theatre in Peabody, MA. Given the fact that it was April Fool’s Day, the theme of the 2022 breakfast was “It’s No Joke,” with a robust policy agenda focused on the workforce crisis in the state’s human services industry.
More than 100 people attended the breakfast that was catered by the Breaking Grounds Café, a social enterprise operated by the Northeast Arc. Speakers included Senator Joann Lovely, Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt, Centerboard program director Martina Campbell, and Northeast Arc family member Carol McGee – whose sister receives services from the Northeast Arc. The breakfast was co-sponsored by a consortium of human services providers:
Human services leaders are asking for an increase to the Chapter 257 Rate Reserve that would bring wages to $20.30/hour
Northeast Arc CEO JoAnn Simons, Bridgewell CEO Chris Tuttle, NFI Massachusetts CEO Lydia Todd, and Incompass CEO Jean Phelps also made remarks in support of the workforce.
“We’re specifically asking lawmakers to set aside funds to raise the starting wage for human service workers,” remarked Tuttle.
Incompass CEO Jean Phelps at the podium.
Phelps, who had just returned from Washington, D.C. where she attended the Disability Policy Seminar, recalled words from Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley that stuck with her that morning. “It would be great if we didn’t have to weaponize our trauma around disability to adequately support our services.”
Incompass Human Services and the six other human services agencies sponsoring the event used the venue to highlight the major policy initiative being championed by The Collaborative – an increase of $581.6 million for the Chapter 257 Rate Reserve. This increase is a necessary investment in the human services industry, as it would bring wages up to a more competitive $20.30 an hour.
“Without this increase, we’re going to continue to lose workers to Amazon and to the state, and we won’t be able to offer the services and supports that the vulnerable people we serve rely on,” Todd told the crowd.
Speakers focused on the important work that human services workers perform, and the lives they touch
A high point of the morning was the legislative panel, which was moderated by Arc of Massachusetts CEO Leo Sarkisian. The panelists included:
Senator JoAnn Lovely
Representative Jamie Belsito addresses the crowd.
Senator Bruce Tarr
Senator Brendan Crighton
Representative Paul Tucker
Representative Dan Cahill
Representative Jamie Belsito
Representative Thomas Walsh
Representative Sally Kerans
“This is about dignity. This is about respect. This is about our communities. This is about our vulnerable populations,” said Representative Belsito in her remarks advocating for more support for the critical workers in the human services field.
Picking up on that theme, Representative Tucker remarked that “they do it because they have a passion for helping people and working with some really special folks. No headlines. No accolades. Sometimes they might get a pat on the back, but that doesn’t pay the bills.”
Representative Walsh added that “we have a terrific group of legislators here who really do hear your message…and we have a tremendous respect for the work that you do.”
Last year’s breakfast was cancelled due to the pandemic, so this was a momentous morning
Attendees remarked on what an uplifting morning it was, and how much they appreciated being in-person given that last year’s breakfast was cancelled due to the pandemic. Senator Diana DiZoglio and former Senator Richard Tisei were also in attendance, as were numerous human services workers, families, and caregivers.
The legislative panel and human services leaders take a moment to strike a pose after a lively panel discussion.
LifeLinks CLASS has been faced with some incredibly difficult decisions in these past few months — decisions that greatly impact our staff and the individuals that we support. As part of The Arc of Massachusett’s #DontCutUsOut campaign, it is imperative that we act fast to ensure the continued funding of our services and supports for the I/DD community.
“Adults with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or other intellectual and developmental disabilities served by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) will lose services if funding and policies don’t meet the requirements of the re-opening period and thereafter.”
Richard Faucher, a passionate advocate, voiced his concerns to our local legislators in the letter below:
As you know Life Links has been a rock-solid DDS contract provider for many years. For the Cadillac of providers to lay off 140 employees, it will have a devastating effect on services whether it is day or group home services.
There is no question other providers are going to have to lay off employees and maybe close down permanently. It is estimated some of these laid-off employees will seek employment at places paying more than $15 an hour thus leaving a huge void in the provider ranks when and if things return to some kind of normalcy.
As an advocate, I urge you to see what you can do to make sure there will be funding in the next budget to continue the great services providers give to our most venerable population.
Some facts affecting those below if funding and policies do not meet the re-opening time frame and future needs.
+ 10,000 persons who receive day and employment services
+ 9,000 individuals in congregate living
+ 1,300 new students in transition from high school to adult life
+ Additional persons receiving Mass-Health services
(these are stats from the ARC of Mass)
Not that I have to remind you all, but the Department of Developmental Disability (DDS) generates more funds back to the general fund than any other agency in the Commonwealth.
On a personal note: My brother Pete who lived in a group home in Tewksbury passed away on May 13, 2020. His passing was not from Covid-19 but other complicated medical issues. He was a fighter up to the end. He died at the age of 69, a little less than 3 months before his 70th birthday. I mention this for one reason only. Many years ago in the 50’s the life expectancy was I think less than 40-50. If it wasn’t for our families great gene pool AND the outstanding support by legislatures like yourselves who cared for the developmentally disabled throughout those years and passed legislation supporting the needs of the population giving DDS and the providers the tools to do their job, Pete would not have lived as long. The Commonwealth has come a long way, but this situation we are in today reinforces more than ever the need to fund the DDS.
Thanks so much for letting me vent…I wish you and your families stay healthy and safe..
“Eileen Lee, a service coordinator for the LifeLinks Class Family Support Center in Massachusetts, an affiliated chapter of The Arc, has had similar struggles with her 32-year-old son Michael, who has a severely compromised immune system and an intellectual disability. Michael is now homebound with Eileen, 65, and her 71-year-old husband; Michael’s usual routine — the day program that allows him to work at a company where he inventories and refurbishes old electronics; the volunteer outings at local fire stations — has been halted for the foreseeable future.
“Everything has come to a stop. There is just no place for him to go,” Eileen said. It’s not even safe for Michael to go to Tufts Medical Center, where he receives weekly infusions to support his immune system. Now, a nurse will come to their home, Eileen said, and she worries about even that level of exposure.
“We are taking this so seriously, because if this disease goes to Michael’s lungs —” she paused. “He’s a goner. There’s no getting around it, and it’s so frightening.”
In the midst of the deepening crisis, and reports that overwhelmed hospitals may ultimately be forced to ration care — potentially prioritizing patients who are deemed most likely to survive — parents like Eileen and Lisa are left to consider what that might mean for their children.”