by Mike Hyland, Venture President & CEO – The Covid-19 pandemic really has made 2020 a year unlike any other. At every turn, we can see how things have changed in our daily lives. We wear masks (well, most of us), we shop differently, our children go to school differently, and too many local businesses have had to close their doors for good. Human services agencies have not been immune to the financial strife caused by the pandemic and now, more than ever, we need the people tasked with leading this nation to do what it takes to support us. Sadly, they aren’t even trying to do that right now.
The people in the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the White House simply need to work harder. It seems they spend all day every day bickering and posturing rather than moving forward. Pandering has replaced leadership and complete abandonment of professionals who work with disabled people has replaced accountability. It is unfathomable that no one in our federal government has taken the time to publicly acknowledge the amazing work these professionals do to keep others safe and that the work is both vital and commendable. Instead, this work has been privately ignored while these elected officials spend their time sticking their tongues out at one another. Wow!
Massachusetts has always valued the work done by human services providers but the Commonwealth is now facing a significant fiscal crisis as the Baker administration tries to come up with a workable budget for this new fiscal year that began in July. In order to properly fund agencies that are still realizing extraordinary expenses due to the pandemic, Massachusetts needs the federal government to do its job and create a relief package that supports the work that Venture and others do every day. Instead, the Senate (with the approval of the White House) has passed a package that raises a collective middle finger to human services agencies by completely ignoring us and the House of Representatives has turned their attention to political posturing. Once again, WOW!
I know that the political climate in D.C. is both toxic and dysfunctional, probably more than at any other time. If there is one thing those elected officials should be able to agree upon, it is the work being done by millions of people to help others every day is important. This work also requires specific and immediate support, either directly or through money funded through the states, in order to continue at the high level people deserve. Waiting another however many months for elected officials to get to it is entirely unacceptable and even dangerous. These people know what they need to do and they need to work harder now to do it.
Promoting Inclusion, Diversity and Equity for all Venture employees.
As part of our continuing commitment to ensure all Venture employees feel included and supported, our TogetherVenture program will consist of the following:
Various days throughout the year will be highlighted to promote education and awareness of differing groups of people.
FORUMS AND TRAINING PROGRAMS
We commit to providing education to all our staff
Venture has partnered with the African Bridge Network and Simmons University for a comprehensive study: Pathways to Leadership Among Foreign-Born and Native-Born Human Services Workers: Equity and Inclusion
Employees are encouraged to participate in our Bias Training
Virtual and in person forums and employee discussion groups will be held as a resource to address concerns with diversity and inclusion that may be effecting them.
Our mentorship program will ensure all employees have the tools and knowledge to advance their careers.
We want to hear from you.
Do you have suggestions on improving or enhancing your work environment in regards to inclusion, diversity and equity? Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Message From Our CEO
Venture is, has always been, and will always be a safe place for all our employees. Everyone is important; every idea is an opportunity to make us better, and everyone’s experiences matter. We celebrate our diversity and are grateful that we employ people from over 30 countries, each one of those professionals working to make a difference in someone’s life. Our strength as an agency comes from people who are all different from each other working together to do the same thing; help those who need it. I have watched in amazement as our nurses have worked tirelessly and seamlessly to keep people safe from the pandemic. One department of people of different ages, different experiences, different beliefs and from different countries all doing the same work in order to help others. This is one example but it highlights what happens here every day and that is what defines us. Not our differences but the way we benefit from them in service to others.
The agency will continue to be a safe and welcoming place for everyone we employ and support. We all come from different places but we ultimately end up being the same. It is what makes us successful and it is what we can all depend on when things around us get far too complicated.
We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything our country has experienced in our lifetime. People are suffering and struggling through no fault of their own. This makes what the U.S. Senate has done utterly unfathomable: why have they deliberately decided that people with disabilities and the professionals who help them don’t matter?? It is an appalling admission that, as a body, the people who now control the Senate just don’t care.
Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Heroes Act. It included billions of dollars that would specifically support the needs of people with developmental disabilities and those who care for this historically marginalized population. By the way, the amazing professionals who do this work so well year after year have also been historically marginalized. The Senate, in response to this bill, passed the Heals Act. It completely ignores the aforementioned groups. How in the world is this okay??? I understand the need for various aid to big business to help the economy but I will never understand the choice to not help people who have so little and the experts who show up every day to help them in virtual anonymity. It is, in a word, disgraceful. Most importantly, it cannot go unnoticed. Not this time.
People should flood Senate leader Mitch McConnell with emails and phone calls asking him to explain why the Senate will not prioritize people with disabilities and the selfless support staff who help them in groups homes, day programs, and the community. We all owe each of these people this much.
Good morning Venture. As you surely know, the world we live in has changed drastically in the past week as we have watched communities descend into chaos and senseless violence play out on live television after a man in Minnesota lost his life due to the actions of a person whose job is to help people. The violence is frightening and obscures the important conversations about who we are as a country and how we need to truly find equality and safety for all. During such a difficult time in our society, I am reminded of how this agency and others like it stand as beacons of hope.
Venture is, has always been, and will always be a safe place for all of our employees. Everyone is important, every idea is an opportunity to make us better, and everyone’s experiences matter. We celebrate our diversity and are grateful that we employ people from over 30 countries, each one of those professionals working to make a difference in someone’s life. Our strength as an agency comes from people who are all different from each other working together to do the same thing: help those who need it. I have watched in amazement for over two months as our nurses have worked tirelessly and seamlessly to keep people safe from the pandemic. One department of people of different ages, different experiences, different beliefs and from different countries all doing the same work in order to help others. This is one example but it highlights what happens here every day and that is what defines us. Not our differences but the way we benefit from them in service to others.
The agency will continue to be a safe and welcoming place for everyone we employ and support. We all come from different places but we ultimately end up being the same. It is what makes us successful and is what we can all depend on when things around us get far too complicated.
Today marks 72 days since the COVID-19 virus was officially declared a pandemic. We have seen stories of great compassion and great tragedy as well as a glimpse at what some call the emerging new normal. What we have not seen is our leaders in Washington D.C. providing a single dime for people with disabilities and the skilled professionals who support them. Trillions of dollars have been appropriated and not one red cent of it has been designated for Medicaid-funded providers of community-based disability services. Unfathomable? No, it is disgraceful.
The risk that the virus poses to people with developmental disabilities is enormous, even more so than the risk posed to the general public given the high incidence of medical conditions that people with disabilities often have. Yet, inexplicably, the federal government has designated $0 of the Public Health & Social Services Emergency Fund to Medicaid-funded providers of group homes and community supports. To date, only about $87 billion of the $175 billion appropriated to this fund has been committed or distributed and the vast majority of those commitments have been made to Medicare programs. It is crucial that Congress direct the Department of Health and Human Services to immediately address Medicaid-funded providers’ critical financial needs by allocating these funds to agencies that comprise the safety net that supports people with developmental disabilities. It has already been far too long a wait for this relief.
There is a glimmer of hope, however. Last Friday, the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act. The legislation includes, for the first time, critical resources for disability service providers. These provisions have a long way to go before becoming law of course, and must survive Senate negotiations ahead of a final vote. This vote is unlikely to happen before mid-June but it is essential that the Senate also include meaningful financial relief for provider agencies so that we can all continue to ensure that the people we support have the staff and resources needed to remain safe. It is well beyond time that people with developmental disabilities and the agencies that support them are prioritized in the same way as the many other sectors that have been given billions of dollars in financial relief. To do anything less would amount to complete abandonment by the leaders in our nation’s capital and a sad dismissal of a population that has been inappropriately marginalized for many, many decades.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed just about every facet of our lives from how we work to where we can go and even how we celebrate holidays. Social distancing is new terminology that we are unlikely to ever forget and wearing facemasks in public has become commonplace now. Something that hasn’t changed however is the remarkable dedication of people who have chosen careers that help others even in the darkest times. Each day we see stories of overwhelmed doctors and nurses who work grueling hours under brutal conditions and EMTs who bravely assist people who are both sick and terrified. Let us also remember an extraordinary group of professionals doing heroic things on behalf of others around the clock: those working in group homes.
Under normal circumstances, working in a group home presents many challenges, often without warning. Coupling those challenges now with a virus that has stricken tens of thousands of people in Massachusetts creates a situation unlike any we have seen before. Still, these exceptional people keep showing up every day to care for and help the individuals who need them now more than ever. The folks who live in Venture group homes have seen their lives totally disrupted by COVID-19 and have essentially been isolated for more than 30 days now in an effort to protect them as much as possible. That is more than a month of not being able to go to day programs, work, community activities, or other social gatherings with friends. Most importantly, the people we support cannot even visit in person with their families right now. The job of a direct support professional is hard enough without a national health crisis. Now, the staff are also asked to fill the void left by the pandemic while somehow letting the people in our homes know they are safe. That is asking an awful lot of people who have their own lives and families and yet it is a challenge our employees have taken on with the amazing skill, compassion, and professionalism they have always shown. It is genuinely inspiring.
Every crisis brings an element of fear and a public health emergency increases that fear exponentially. People working in essential jobs have always found ways to rise above that fear and help those in need. We remember first responders in blizzards and hurricanes and we remember firefighters who race into buildings from which others are fleeing. We also remember medical professionals volunteering to go to war ravaged countries to treat strangers. It would be more than sad if people don’t remember what our direct support professionals are doing around the clock during this crisis; it would be shameful. Let’s all make it a point to recognize them and thank them whenever we get the chance.
In honor of Autism Awareness month, (April) the Town of Charlton Police Department will be selling Autism Awareness police patches. Proceeds from the sale of the patches will be donated to Venture to support our community autism services and programs. Patches will be on sale through the Charlton Police Department:
To purchase a patch:
Send $10 or a check made out to ‘Charlton Police Explorers’ and a self addressed stamped envelope to:
Autism Patches c/o Charlton Police Department 85 Masonic Home Road Charlton, MA 01507
The department will also eventually be hosting an autism awareness training seminar in conjunction with ALEC (Autism and Law Enforcement) and the Worcester County District Attorney. The seminar is for local police officers to learn and refresh the knowledge needed to protect and communicate when it comes to interacting with people living in our community with autism. Thank you Charlton PD for your community support!
I am writing to let you know the steps that Venture
Community Services is taking to respond to the threat of COVID- 19 illness. In
addition to typical disease prevention techniques and protocols, Venture is
implementing the following steps to prevent the spread of the virus to the
people that we support and the staff who we employ:
Purchasing additional cleaning and sanitation supplies for each program that Venture operates
Purchasing additional personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks for each program that Venture operates
Implementing additional COVID-19 specific cleaning protocols. These protocols were developed by the Director of Nursing with specific adherence to medical cleanliness guidelines and will be implemented on each shift
Implementation of professional deep cleaning of each day habilitation program site twice weekly. This cleaning will supplement the daily cleaning that already occurs in these programs
Implementation of professional deep cleaning of our residential programs that support medically fragile individuals weekly to supplement daily cleaning that already occurs in these programs
Implementation of sanitation and wipe down of each agency van before and after each use. Sanitizing supplies and hand sanitizer will be stocked in each vehicle in case it is needed during use
Staff training in the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and flu and appropriate response to these symptoms in our day and residential programs. Literature about this topic has been posted in each of our programs
Staff training in proper hand washing techniques. Literature about this topic has been posted in each of our programs
Limiting outings in the community where large groups may gather
Upon signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and/or flu, individuals’ PCP office will be contacted for further instruction about treatment
A COVID-19 response team will convene upon positive or presumed positive diagnosis of COVID-19 to respond to the needs of the specific program and individual receiving supports. This team will consist of senior staff from agency operations, nursing and clinical services
The Director of Nursing is developing a Quarantine Protocol, should the need arise, to effectively quarantine individuals for the recommended 14 day period
We are confident that these steps will aid in preventing the occurrence of COVID-19 in our programs, for the people we support and our very dedicated work force. Venture is also collaborating with other agencies and the Commonwealth. In order to keep you updated on the latest developments, we will be posting updates on our website venturecs.org and on our Facebook page.
The 2020 federal budget proposal contains countless line items and notations, as is expected in any document so large and overwhelming. Even in all that minutiae however, one particularly disgraceful item stands out: the call to eliminate all funding for Special Olympics. Once again it seems that people with disabilities are in danger of being cast aside and left behind so that money can go to others. Enough already!
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed a budget
that would end federal funding for Special Olympics. As offensive as that proposal is all on its
own, her rationale for minimizing the importance of this intentional neglect is
absurd. DeVos stated that Special
Olympics “is well supported by the philanthropic community”. This is true but what the secretary is
missing is the whole point of a not-for-profit status. The Special Olympics, just like provider
agencies, is permitted by law to fundraise because the government readily admits
that the work is underfunded in the first place. Taking away those relatively few dollars is a
public rejection by DeVos and others of the value of Special Olympics and other
organizations that support people with disabilities. In fact, her proposal would negatively affect
close to 300,00 children across the country.
So why is Special Olympics so important? Because since the ‘60’s, the organization has
opened doors and opportunities for people with disabilities in ways that never
existed before. These people were
finally given the chance to participate in organized activities that improve
health, confidence, and self-esteem while at the same time creating genuine
relationships and inclusion. People with
disabilities who were shuttered away for so long now have a bevy of programing
choices that span across the world and offer participation and achievement for
individuals who were denied these opportunities for generations. Special Olympics has also worked tirelessly
to confront and end the stigma that people with disabilities have always had to
endure, giving them a public platform to celebrate their efforts and
successes. It is truly baffling that
some in government would choose to make this work even harder than it already
Unfortunately, it’s not an unusual step from Secretary
DeVos and the administration in D.C.
It’s the 3rd year in a row they’ve proposed slashing funding
for Special Olympics, though the first attempt to end funding outright. It’s difficult to fathom just what those
people have against people with disabilities.
The almost $18 million spent annually on Special Olympics is irrelevant
in the $4 trillion federal
budget, making the annual attack on this crucial funding even more
ridiculous. It’s time that those in
power stop seeing the disabilities community as low hanging fruit for budget cuts. Thankfully, the proposal is not very likely
to pass in Congress when the budget is finally done. What’s troubling, however, is the yearly need
to still stand up and try to defend the relative pittance that an organization
like Special Olympics gets from the government to provide precious
opportunities for so many people.