Advocates say that the system has been chronically underfunded for years, but that the COVID-19 pandemic has now pushed it into a full-blown crisis situation which will destabilize the system and adversely affect access to care for thousands of Rhode Islanders. The result could be a catastrophic collapse of the state’s health and human services sector as the viability of these services comes into question. At risk are tens of thousands of jobs and the wellbeing of the most-vulnerable Rhode Islanders those jobs support.
The seventy organizations say children in DCYF care; children with developmental disabilities; and youth and adults with behavioral health, substance abuse conditions, and/or developmental disabilities are all at risk if more state support is not forthcoming soon.
“Our member community-based agencies provide the hands-on intervention, support, and care that thousands of children, youth, and families rely on to prevent and resolve crises,” says Tanja Kubas-Meyer, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families. “Without ready access to community-based services, Rhode Island’s most vulnerable children and youth are at risk of family separation and hospitalization. It is simply inexcusable that our elected leaders have not acted decisively to shore up Rhode Island’s child and family services sector. Without immediate action, the safety net we provide to so many vulnerable youth could collapse. We must stabilize our network of community-based agencies and the critical support they provide to so many Rhode Island children, youth, and families.”
“Without a sustainable workforce, the capacity of behavioral health providers has been strained to unprecedented levels, resulting in delayed care for thousands of individuals in need,” says Cliff Cabral, CEO of Horizon Healthcare Partners. “We need to follow the lead of our neighboring states and take action immediately or risk a further rationing of critical care.”
The HHS organizations are pushing the State, during the long-awaited special session of the General Assembly, to use $100 million of the untouched $1.2 billion Rhode Island has in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds along with additional funding from the Home and Community Based Service (HCBS) Enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage. The organizations also call upon the State of Rhode Island to tap into the $51 million budget surplus it recorded in 2021 to help provide funds. They call on the Governor to immediately sign such a spending bill and take the actions outlined in their letter.
“We simply cannot wait to respond to the current crisis until January, particularly at a time when there is funding available today,” says Tina Spears, the Executive Director of the Community Provider Network of Rhode Island.
These funds, under the plan put forward by Rhode Island’s health and human services organizations, would go towards providing the state’s HHS workforce a living wage. Funding would initiate a workforce development program, which the coalition says would stabilize the system and strengthen the health and human services system's ability to meet the needs of the community.
The coalition of HHS organizations says it will keep up the pressure on the Governor and lawmakers to solve the crisis as long as it takes for a special session to be convened. Coalition members note that they provide services to residents across Rhode Island, in every district in the General Assembly. Advocates say no state legislator has constituents who are unaffected by the crisis and it is the Governor’s obligation to protect all Rhode Islanders.
“Action is needed now,” says Spears, “none of the organizations signed onto this letter are going to rest until this crisis is addressed and the most vulnerable Rhode Islanders get the high quality care and support they need.”
HHS Coalition Letter to Governor & General Assembly, September 2021
Copy attached to this email
September 23, 2021
RE: Call to Action- Workforce Crisis
The organizations that have signed on to this letter are asking for direct action to be taken by our elected officials and the Governor to address the escalating workforce crisis that is crippling the health and human service delivery system. The system has been chronically underfunded for years and the pandemic has now propelled it into a crisis situation, destabilizing the system and adversely affecting access to care for thousands of Rhode Islanders.
The instability of the community-based health and human service system impacts Rhode Island children, individuals with disabilities and behavioral health conditions, and elders who rely upon this workforce and the viability of the organizations that employ these workers. This industry represents tens of thousands of Rhode Island jobs that serve our most vulnerable citizens and communities.
The State has both an obligation to the Rhode Islanders who need services and a responsibility to ensure that there is a viable system in place to actually provide these services. Due to the pandemic, increased caseloads and stressful conditions have led to increased turnover, lower morale, and unparalleled levels of burnout among existing staff. Without a valued, well compensated workforce, those who rely on services will not receive them. Health and Human Service Organizations (HHS) organizations must be equipped with the tools to value the workers they employ and recruit workers back to the field of health and human services.
Children in DCYF care are at risk. We have seen the providers of service close to referrals leaving children without needed support. Children with developmental disabilities are losing critical services. We have seen this with the closure to referrals of Early Intervention (EI) providers and lack of access to therapeutic and clinical treatment supports for children with developmental disabilities and behavioral health conditions. Adults with behavioral health, substance abuse conditions, and developmental disabilities are without services that are desperately needed each day when providers are unable to accept new referrals for services. Rhode Island has an access crisis and our state leaders must respond promptly and effectively.
Fortunately, Rhode Island leaders have the financial means to address this crisis. Currently, the State of Rhode Island is the only state in New England that has failed to release any American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to the critical industries most impacted by the pandemic. Rhode Island is one of 14 states (Texas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, Rhode Island) that have failed to release ARPA funds.
The Federal government has provided Rhode Island with the means for rescue and recovery to:
• Support urgent COVID-19 response efforts to continue to decrease spread of the virus and bring the pandemic under control
• Replace lost revenue for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to strengthen support for vital public services and help retain jobs
• Support immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses
• Address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the unequal impact of the pandemic
• The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds provide substantial flexibility for each government to meet local needs—including support for households, small businesses, impacted industries, essential workers, and the communities hardest hit by the crisis. These funds can also be used to make necessary investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
We ask ALL elected leaders to aggressively take action by:
Immediately appropriating minimally $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and distribution of HCBS FMAP enhanced funding to:
• Specifically increase wages across the community based health and human service system
• Provide appropriate funding to cover additional costs associated with operating in the pandemic
• Initiate a robust workforce development strategy
Investing in sustainability planning and rate reform to:
• Ensure the health and human service system has the capacity to meet the needs of the community
• Ensure all health and human service workers receive a living wage
• Compensate clinical and professional staff competitively
The State has the following resources to consider for investments in rescue and recovery for the health and human service delivery system. Currently the state has available the following resources to address this crisis are:
2021 Budget surplus ($51.0 million)
Home and Community Based Service Enhanced FMAP funding ($115-$150 million)
ARPA Funding ($1.2 billion)
The time to act is now. We need the help of our elected officials!
ORGANIZATION ORGANIZATION'S DISTRICT DIRECTOR/CEO DIRECTOR/CEO DISTRICT
AccessPoint RI Sen 26, Rep 41 Thomas Kane CEO Sen 26, Rep 41
Action Based Enterprises Sen 20, Rep 51 Michael Purcell, Program Director Rep 65, Sen 18
Adoption Rhode Island Statewide Darlene Allen, CEO & Executive Director
Avatar Residential Sen 31, Rep 26 Raymond Memery, Executive Director Sen 31
Boys Town New England Statewide Sarah Galvan, Executive Director
Child & Family of Rhode Island Sen 10, 11, 12, 13 Rep- 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75 Marty Sinnott, CEO Sen 12, Rep 75
Children's Friend Sen 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 15, 16, Rep 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 13, 56, 58, 62 David Caprio, President & CEO Sen 22, Rep 44
Community Care Alliance Statewide Benedict Lessing, President/CEO
Community Provider Network of Rhode Island Statewide Tina Spears, Executive Director Sen 34, Rep 36
Community Residences Inc. Statewide Heather Miller, Program Director
Comprehensive Community Action Program Sen 28, Rep 18 Joanne McGunagle, President & CEO Sen 35, Rep 34
COVE Center Statewide
East Bay Community Action program East Bay Dennis Roy, CEO
Easterseals Rhode Island Statewide Mary A. Moran, Executive Director
Family Behavior Solutions Statewide Nicole Quigley, Executive Director
Family Service of Rhode Island Sen 6, 3, Rep 12, 2 Margaret Holland McDuff, CEO Sen 18, Rep 66
Frank Olean Center Statewide, Sen 38, Rep 38,37 Ruth Tureckova, Executive Director Sen 38, Rep 37
Harmony Hill School, Inc Sen 23, Rep 40 Eric James, CEO/President District 23
J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center Statewide Judith A. Sullivan, President/CEO
James L. Maher Center Sen 12, Rep 72 Lynne Maher, Executive Director Sen 12, Rep 72
Jammat Housing and Community Development Sen 2, Rep 10 Stephanie Holley, COO Sen 12, Rep 74
Justice Resource Institute Statewide Paige DiBiasio, Director
L.I.F.E. Inc. Sen 10, Rep 69 Larry Wiedenhofer, Executive Director Rep 70, Sen
Living Innovations Statewide Joanne Malise, Director
Looking Upwards Statewide Carrie Miranda, Executive Director
Meaningful Outcomes Statewide, Sen 9, Rep 27 Alicia Morgan-Nelson, Executive Director Sen 36, Rep 33
Meeting Street Statewide John Kelly, CEO
Momentum, Inc. Statewide Andrea Chait, CEO
NAFI RI Statewide Lynn Bishop, Executive Director
Navigate Behaviors, LLC Statewide Renee Randol, Executive Director
Newport Mental Health Newport County Jaimie Lehane, President and CEO
Northeast Family Services Statewide Peter Patch, President & CEO
Ocean State Behavioral Statewide Stephen W. Patch, CEO
Ocean Tides Statewide, Sen 35, Rep 34 Brother James Martino, FSC Sen 35, Rep 34
Opportunities Unlimited Statewide Linda N. Ward, Executive Director
Perspectives Corporation Statewide Judy Niedbala, Executive Director Sen 36, Rep 31
Phoenix Houses of New England Statewide Pete Mumma, President & CEO
proAbility Statewide Michael Andrade, CEO
Protect Our Healthcare Coalition Statewide Statewide Coalition
ReFocus, Inc. Statewide Christine Kavanagh, RSM, CEO
Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence Statewide Tonya King Harris, Executive Director
Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families Statewide, Sen 1, Rep 8 Tanja Kubas-Meyer, Executive Director Sen 32, Rep 66
Rhode Island Parent Information Network (RIPIN) Statewide Sam Salganik, Executive Director
Rhode Island Student Assistance Services statewide Sarah Dinklage, CEO
Seven Hills Rhode ISland Statewide Marissa Ruff, Interim VP
Sojourner House Statewide Vanessa Volz, Executive Director
Spurwink RI Statewide, Sen 28, Rep 18 Regina C. Hayes, Executive Director
St. Mary's Home for Children Statewide Carlene Casciano-McCann, Executive Director Sen 7, Rep 54
The Arc of Blackstone Valley Sen 15, Rep 62 Katherine Hunt, COO Rep 67, Sen 32
The Arc Rhode Island Statewide Joanna Scocchi, Director Rep 33, Sen 35
The Autism Project Statewide Joanne Quinn, Executive Director Sen 9, Rep 26
The Corliss Institute Statewide Peg Graham, Executive Director
The Fogarty Center Statewide David Reiss, CEO
The Groden Center, Inc. Statewide Michael Pearis, CEO
The Key Program, Incorporated Statewide Patricia St.Germain, Director of Operations Sen 15, Rep 58
The Occupational & Environment Health Center of RI Statewide Mary Ellen DiMaio, Administrator
The Providence Center Statewide Tiffney Davidson-Parker, President & COO
The Senior Agenda Coalition of Rhode Island Statewide Bill Flynn, Executive Director
The Substance Use and Mental Health Leadership Council of RI Statewide Susan A. Storti, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, CARN-AP, President/CEO Sen 26, Rep 14
The Village for RI's Foster and Adoptive Families Statewide Sue Babin, Board President
Thrive Behavioral Health Statewide Daniel Kubas-Meyer, Pres/CEO
Tides Family Services Kent County Beth Lemme-Bixby, CEO
Town of Coventry-Project FRIENDS Rep 21, 33, Sen 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 40 Robert N. Robillard Jr., Director
Tri-County Community Action Agency Statewide Joseph R. DeSantis, President & CEO
Trinity Village, LLC East Bay Christine Nolan, Founder & CEO
Turning The Corner Sen 1, 2,16, 23 Rep 5, 10, 11,16, 29, 58 Lauri Smalls, Executive Director Sen 1, Rep 5
West Bay RI Sen 31, Rep 20 Casey Gartland, Executive Director Sen 36, Rep 31
Westbay Community Action Sen-27, 29, 31, 30 Rep- 20, 19, 26, 28, 21, 25, 29, 23, 27, 22, 24 Paul Salera, President/CEO
Whitmarsh Corp Sen 3, Rep 4 Robert LaRocco, LMFT Sen 4, Rep 13