News & Events

Union Head Denounces Cuts for DMH at City Sidewalk Vigil

WORCESTER —  The president of the 12,000-member Service Employees International Union Local 509 yesterday called on the Legislature to reject the governor’s budget proposal to cut $21 million from a Department of Mental Health budget that has already shrunk $63.2 million since 2006.

Susan Tousignant addressed a vigil in memory of two human service workers killed by their clients. The vigil attracted 40 people to a sidewalk at Belmont and Shrewsbury streets. Ms. Tousignant said DMH should rehire 100 case workers laid off in 2009, an action that the state auditor found to be illegal.

She said the rehiring could be done, averting further service cuts, if the Legislature would pass a law proposed by state Rep. James J. O’Day, D-West Boylston. Mr. O’Day’s proposal would require a small increase in taxes for the state’s wealthiest residents, she said.

The vigil memorialized Stephanie Moulton, who worked in a group home in Revere, and Jose Roldan, who worked at a homeless shelter in Lowell, both of whom were killed in January, allegedly by people receiving services.

SEIU and Massachusetts Nurses Association members were joined yesterday by Mr. O’Day, who also is a Local 509 member; state Rep. Vincent A. Pedone, D-Worcester, and Mayor Joseph C. O’Brien. Mr. Pedone asked, “Who is protecting the ones protecting the most vulnerable among us?”

He said the state must have policies in place, some of which would not cost additional money, to make the workplace safe for human services workers.

Sheelagh O’Connor, Local 509 chapter representative for case managers at DMH’s Worcester case management site, was critical of the department’s plan to reduce the state hospital census by 160 beds to save $16.4 million without allocating any additional money to community programs to care for those discharged from the hospitals.

Gloria Bardsley, a Massachusetts Nurses Association board member who works at Glavin Regional Center in Shrewsbury, said, “Because of budget cuts and a wholesale attack on the public sector workers and services by policymakers seeking to balance the budget on the most vulnerable in our society, our members are suffering, our patients are being neglected.”