2009 News

State’s RNs/Health Professionals Criticize Governor’s Budget for Its Neglect of State-Operated Programs for the Care of the Most Vulnerable Mentally Ill and Disabled Residents

01.29.2009

Support Call for Increased Sources of Revenue

CANTON, MA — The Commonwealth’s system of care for the most vulnerable citizens is being jeopardized by yet another round of funding cuts for the state-operated facilities for the care of people with acute mental illness and severe developmental disabilities, which are proposed in the Governor’s FY 2010 budget, released today.

“As health care providers on the frontlines of the state’s health care system, we believe the proposed cuts to the state’s health and human service programs will cause real pain and unnecessary suffering to the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth, including the poor, the elderly, the disabled and those struggling with mental illness,” said Beth Piknick, President of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

The Governor’s budget calls for cuts to the line items for the state’s mental health facilities, such as Taunton State Hospital, Worcester State Hospital, Westborough State Hospital and Tewksbury State Hospital; along with cuts to the line item for the state’s facilities for the care of those with severe developmental disabilities. The cuts to the DMR budget follows the Governor’s recently announced plan to close four of six residential care facilities for the state’s most severely disabled residents. The Governor’s budget also cuts funding for the state’s public health hospitals, which serve a very poor population with acute and chronic health conditions.

“Even before the current fiscal crisis, the publicly funded health care safety net in Massachusetts was fraying. Now it is being shredded at the expense of those who depend on these services for their very survival. Our concerns are all about patient care,” said Karen Coughlin, RN, a nurse at Taunton State Hospital, and acting chair of MNA’s local union that represents 1,800 nurses and health professionals employed by the state. “The state’s mental health hospitals are already failing to provide the level of care our patients deserve, and now we expect that conditions will only get worse.”

The one bright spot in the budget was the Governor’s call for measures to increase revenue, which the MNA believe is essential to maintaining the health and safety of the Commonwealth. “We support Governor Patrick’s call for increasing revenue through a tax on alcohol sales, as well as meals, hotels, and telecommunications, as important first steps in addressing this crisis.”

FPO