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Campaign for quality human services kicks off

LYNN – The quality of care for individuals with disabilities has reached crisis levels, according to state officials and service workers union representatives preparing to bargain for higher wages.Service Employees International Union representatives Thursday said a state report released in October backs up their assertions that workers caring for disabled adults and at-risk youth are overburdened, underpaid and in a constant state of flux.The report prepared by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, entitled “Financial Health of Providers in the Massachusetts Human Service System,” said pay levels for human services employees “limit the level of experience and qualification for many direct care workers, and also lead to rapid staff turnover and increased replacement costs.”The report points out that state agencies serving people with disabilities, drug and alcohol problems and youth in the state’s juvenile justice system rely on 1,100 non-profit providers employing 185,000 workers.A financial analysis of over half of the providers, according to the report, “shows sub par and, at times, precarious results. Some small providers may not have access to lines of credit or qualify for mortgages, while a significant percentage of providers are heavily leveraged.”The report says state officials are “working on a package of reforms” to improve the financial stability of human service providers.SEIU and other unions intend to start negotiating “modest” pay raises for the providers’ employees beginning next spring when most of the agreements governing workers’ wages expire.

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