Deinstitutionalization & Community-based Health
Today, Western Massachusetts is home to many high quality human service programs and agencies. That is, in part, because for many years Western Mass. hosted both the Northampton State Hospital (mental health services) and the Belchertown State School (developmental disability services). When deinstitutionalization took hold, both institutions were closed and resulted in the development of a network of community-based programs and services to treat the former patients and residents of these facilities. This was done by employing a significant number of private providers. The human services sector in the region grew to include additional services with emphasis on childcare, rehabilitation services, and public health programs. Add to that the presence of two community hospitals, one each in Franklin and Hampshire Counties, and a few specialty healthcare facilities, such as the Farren Care Center, and it is easy to understand the importance of this sector to the economy and quality of life in the area. In fact, this sector represents the second largest employment sector in Hampshire & Franklin counties.
With the closing of these large institutions, Stan has worked over the years to help ensure that the resident’s, their family members’, and the employees’ interests were all addressed. He saw it as an opportunity to improve life in different ways for those impacted by the closings. He worked for years to ensure that there would be programs and residences for the transition into life in the community.
Stan also recognizes that many families take care of challenged individuals at home, having chosen not to institutionalize their family members. He has worked to help them get services and resources, especially for those with aging parents who are no longer able to care for their adult children.
Stan considers our two community hospitals as vital elements in our region both because of the care they provide and the good-paying jobs required to properly staff them. He has worked with the leaders of both to secure special funding to preserve and enhance their services and financial stability. He has done the same repeatedly for other healthcare providers, including the Farren Care Center and the area’s nursing homes.
Stan has worked during each of the last three major recessions in the past 25 years to protect human service agency budgets as best he could during economic downturns. During the good times he helps rebuild those impacted in the tough times.
Over the years Stan has paid special attention to the needs of the lowest paid social service workers. Understanding that these employees in particular were struggling to make ends meet, he created the first salary reserve account to provide annual raises, something that had been denied for many years. That program has been funded in most years over the last decade so although the annual individual increases were modest, over time they have helped improve the base salaries compared to where they would otherwise have been.
Early Childhood Care
Looking to the needs of children, Stan has also been a champion for the daycare community, helping to increase funding for the number of slots to be made available and to improve quality and increase pay for daycare teachers. He knows that many parents would have to give up their jobs if they couldn’t get quality, affordable day care. He also worked to help establish early intervention and in-home family support programs for new, young mothers to help infants and toddlers get a good start in life and education.
Stan may be best known in the human services community for his work on behalf of foster and adopted children. As a former foster child, he understands firsthand the challenges of growing up “a state kid”. As a freshman State Representative, he and three other legislators, who were also former state wards, formed the first-in-the-nation Foster Kid Caucus to help inspire foster kids to do great things. The Caucus operates today with two of its original members still actively participating. Over its 25-year history it has worked to win passage of 28 pieces of legislation to improve the system and to secure increased funding for the state agencies that work with foster and adoptive kids and their families. Among the most significant of their achievements was getting programs established to provide full tuition and fee waivers for foster kids attending Massachusetts public colleges and universities. Another accomplishment included allowing foster kids to voluntarily reengage with the Department of Families & Children if they needed continuing help and guidance after their 18th birthday, when they would otherwise be discharged from state care.
We all work for the day when no child is born with a disability, when there is no need for a department of mental health, when all children are wanted and cared for, when no one in Massachusetts goes to bed hungry or wakes up cold. Until that day comes there will be the need for a social compact, for compassion and empathy, public programs and public funding. Stan is committed to continuing to support those in need until all of their needs are met.