MIKE BARRETT, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR SENATE VISITS NUPATH
WOBURN: NuPath, Inc. was delighted to welcome Mike Barrett, Democratic candidate for the Massachusetts Senate, to its Woburn headquarters located at 147 New Boston Street, on September 26tht.
Meeting with Mr. Barrett was Sheri McCann, President and CEO of NuPath; Carol Donovan, NuPath Board Member, and two NuPath staff, Rachel Musenge and Henry Masembe.
Mr. Masembe said, “I appreciate having a boss like Sheri who keeps us updated on things and works hard for us. I do not have any health insurance. I’ve been married 3 years and I told my wife that we need to get it. But I bring home $400 per week and insurance is about $90 - $100 per week, so that would leave me with $300, how can we pay bills with that? I am also going to school to become a nurse. For me to get insurance I’ll have to pick up another shift on nights that I do not go to school just to pay for the insurance.”
Mr. Barrett asked, “What about Mass Health?”
Mr. Masembe replied, “Believe it or not, we make just above the minimum for that so I end up paying the penalty instead because it is less money. To live a decent life I need to get another job, and it doesn’t just affect me, if also affects the people we serve.”
Ms. McCann told Mr. Barrett, “Henry is a wonderful worker! He has an amazing rapport with the individuals. He is in charge of the car washing micro-business and gets the individuals motivated. I’d love to pay him more, and one day he may come to me and tell me that he found another job for more money, I’m going to be devastated, but I expect to hear that every day.”
Ms. McCann continued, “We have not had a cost of living increase since 1989. What that means in practical terms, is that ‘Michael’, who came to us in1989 at $6,000 per year, well, today I still receive $6,000 funding per year for Michael, only now he has aged. When he came to us he had a job, now he can no longer work, is in early stages of Alzheimers and has higher cost needs, plus food, heat, gas have all gone up. Back in 1989 he needed care 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 it doesn’t mean I get all the costs associated with Michael, and I can tell you, we have about 80 ‘Michaels’ in our program. There have been increases as new individuals come into the program, but then they stay at that rate.”
Ms. McCann further explained, “We got a small Salary Reserve this year, Therese Murray, President of the Senate, was wonderful in helping us to get a small Salary Reserve for people. Gov. Patrick did not put the Salary Reserve in the budget, but Sen. Murray came out swinging and got the Salary Reserve back in. It is $20M, which sounds like a lot of money but when spread out over all the people in Human Services that make low wages, it averages out to about $300 to $400 dollars per year! We are very grateful, but every year it is a constant struggle.”
“So what are the magic words you are looking for?” Mr. Barrett asked.
Ms. McCann replied, “We’re looking for fair and adequate rates. People say there isn’t enough money. I am struggling to keep the program afloat all the time. A bill, Chapter 257, was passed and it says that you have to provide fair and adequate rates to programs with people with disabilities and the administration has been delaying and delaying. We’re just starting to see some rates come out. If we had a cost of living increase each year, you wouldn’t have to worry about Salary Reserve, I’d pay my staff well, because I see how important it is to the people we serve.”
Mr. Barrett said, “Well, let me just say for starters, that I am really supportive here and I’ll try to be supportive over and above that in the Senate where each of us has a voice. I feel that the State Senators have some voice that truly matters and I am very interested in this stuff and always have been and I truly think that the work you guys do is amazingly important.”
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.