SENATOR EILEEN DONOGHUE AND REPRESENTATIVE JAMES ARCIERO VISIT NUPATH’S WESTFORD FACILITY
WESTFORD: NuPath, Inc. was honored to welcome both Senator Eileen Donoghue (D) and Representative James Arciero (D) to its Westford facility located at 7 Lyberty Way in Westford on September 21st.
Both Senator Donoghue and Representative Arciero were warmly welcomed and were able to meet and talk with some of the NuPath staff.
Sheri McCann, President and CEO of NuPath, began the visit by thanking both the Senator and Representative for all their support of the Salary Reserve. “Our staff is very, very thankful for your support. We are glad you could be here so you know what you are supporting. Some of our staff needs to work up to 3 jobs to make ends meet. I know the $20M sounds like a lot of money, but when it comes down to per individual the Salary Reserve will provide about a $300 increase, about 1% for our direct care staff. This is the first raise that they’ve gotten in 5 years. It’s a very difficult situation.”
Ray Souza, a NuPath employee said, “We’ve lost some really good people because the pay isn’t sufficient enough for them to maintain a lifestyle, and then another opportunity comes up and they leave. These are people who are very good with working with our individuals at various levels and it takes a lot of work to train people and to get them up to speed, and then after 1 or 2 years, they leave. It is a hardship for the company. We really need to get more money.”
Lisa Carriere, a direct care worker said, “It’s tough on the individuals too, to lose someone that they’ve grown to like and have come to depend on.”
Ms. McCann said, “So you would look at me and say, ‘well, why don’t you pay your staff more? You should budget better’ Well, we haven’t had a cost of living increase in 22 years!! This means that ‘Michael’, who came to us in1989 at $6,000 per year, today I still receive $6,000 funding per year for him, only now he has aged and has higher cost needs, plus food, heat, gas have all gone up. Back in 1989 his care was in a 1 to 5 ratio, now he needs 1 to 2 care. For new people coming into the program, I get a better rate, however I still don’t get all the costs associated with Michael, and we have about 80 Michaels in our program. This makes it more and more difficult to be able to give our staff adequate funding.”
Continuing on, Ms. McCann explained, “So we were able to accomplish the Salary Reserve. You have probably heard of Chapter 257, which would give us fair and equitable rates, it is something that was passed a number of years ago, but our administration has not been able to fully implement it yet. Once that is implemented we will be able to make decisions on paying our staff, but right now there is no way. Chapter 257, if we get fair and equitable rates, when implemented will fix this issue.”
Senator Donoghue asked when Chapter 257 would be implemented.
“It is being phased in at this point in time, but it is about 5 years out from when it was supposed to be implemented.” Ms. McCann told her.
Senator Donoghue continued, “In terms of there being steep cuts to Human Services over the past several years, in your area, what are the cuts that you had to absorb?”
Ms. McCann replied, “Cuts in our Day Habilitation program which is where many of our fragile people are, cuts in our employment program (that was cut first), our transportation services were cut, family support has been decimated as well as ‘turning 22’ has been decimated. There have been massive cuts to the whole program. Residences are harder to cut because where are the people going to go? But pretty much everything else has suffered quite extensively.”
Representative Arciero stated, “I think the challenge over the last 4 years has been the cuts to the budget due to the economic fiscal crisis. Now, constitutionally we have a balanced budget every year and 2/3 of it is in obligatory spending in transportation, Chapter 70, Mass Health and everybody else is on the front line, especially you folks, public safety, Human Services, so you’ve taken the true brunt of the cuts. I would say the one positive thing is in this budget we were able to restore some of these cuts we’ve had. That’s a great sign to cost recovery and getting back to where we should be. I think moving forward I think it is going to be in prioritizing as things improve.”
Senator Donoghue said, “Rep. Arciero is right, you have local aide looking for money, Chapter 70 looking for money, Public Safety looking for money, and of course, Human Services and there are just all these demands, but somehow striking a balance is a big issue.”
Ms. McCann said, “Well, just having you here today is part of a strategy to let you know what is being left out. We’ve heard from other Senators and Representatives that for the past 4 to 5 years we’ve been off the books, well we want to be back on the books and one of the things we’re doing is an initiative called the Caring Force (www.thecaringforce.org). The Caring Force is a collaboration of all the Human Service people, we are 185,000 strong in the Commonwealth, to come together to let you know what the issues are. One in ten people in the State are touched by Human Services. We want you to know what we want, what’s important to us, so we’ve joined together to become the Caring Force, a force of people who want better things for those people in our programs and for the staff who serve them. Since we launched last December, we have 7,500 members and by next June we’re hoping to have 20,000, eventually getting all 185,000.”
Senator Donoghue stated, “I think that is impressive” and both Senator Donoghue and Rep. Arciero showed their support saying they would join and become members and immediately put on The Caring Force Pin they were given that was created by individuals served here at NuPath.
NuPath Inc. has been a leader in the human services arena for more than 40 years, providing a network of creative day services and residential options for people living with developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders and acquired brain injury. For more information on NuPath’s programs and services, please go to www.nupathinc.org.