Good Trouble

Congressman John Lewis encouraged Americans to get into “good trouble.”  These are the words he lived by, pushing the envelope and standing up to injustice.  His ongoing fight against social and economic injustice for people of color led him from his march on Selma to his years of dedicated service to the US Congress.  Throughout his lengthy career, Lewis worked tirelessly to right many societal wrongs.


At Venture, our idea of “good trouble” is calling attention to the significant human services workforce problem.  We recognize this problem as a wide-ranging social crisis and we recognize that it’s about way more than just jobs.  If McDonald’s doesn’t have enough staff to make your Big Mac, then you can go down the street to Burger King for a Whopper.  That is not the case in human services.  The systemic lack of staff available to fill positions in our field has led to 7000 adults with disabilities unable to access day programs.  For some families, this is devastating. They rely on that time to work outside of the home or to have respite from care taking.


The social crisis impacts the thousands of workers in the human services industry, too. Because the industry doesn’t pay a living wage, our workers are often forced to work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.


These choices have a real and significant impact on the families of our employees, too.  Living in low-income households has long-term, far-reaching effects on the children of our employees. Studies have shown that children who grow up in poverty are more likely to develop chronic illnesses such as asthma and obesity. They are more likely to be sedentary and experience exposure to tobacco, increasing their risk of cardiac and pulmonary diseases.  Only 62% of children from low-income families graduate from high school, compared to 90% of middle and upper economic class families.  Of those, only 3% graduate from college as compared to 37% for middle and upper economic classes.  These children tend to have more behavioral problems in the home and in school.  Parental absence can also be tied to poorer cognitive ability in language, reading and mathematics.


Our employees do admirable work and are dedicated to the field. They collectively have a very positive impact on adults with disabilities throughout Massachusetts. We are all – vendors, staff, parents, guardians, concerned citizens – part of a system that should be supporting the welfare of our Direct Support Professionals and their families so that they can continue to support adults with disabilities.


Lewis said “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.” I urge you all to continue connecting with your legislators. They need to know how important the work that the human services industry is and honor the commitment that the Commonwealth made decades ago to care for people with disabilities. Let’s make some good trouble and make our voices heard!

Ribbon Cutting & Hoyt Dedication

Join us as we officially launch our new program – The Venture Advancement Center.  The new initiative provides supports to young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)  This transitional program focuses on assisting with the training, education and social skills required to find meaningful employment. In general, engagement in meaningful work provides a host of benefits in addition to compensation and self-sufficiency.

We will also be unveiling our dedication to our longtime supporter, Dick Hoyt.  His family will be assisting with the ribbon cutting.

Tours of the program will be available after the ribbon cutting.


Thursday, March 31st @ 10:30am

Venture Advancement Center | 1 Picker Road, Sturbridge, MA

Please rsvp to: pmador@venturecs.org


The Venture Community is Still Strong

by Mike Hyland, President & CEO

By now, we have likely all seen the horrific images of this week’s brazen attack on the U.S. Capitol building by an angry and violent mob of rioters.  Their intent was to damage sacred institutions and harm those who dare to disagree with their ideology.  The country watched in shock as extremism was on full display in one of the world’s great bastions of freedom and then recoiled at the brutal attempt by insurgents to intimidate anyone who stood in their way.  Five people died and over 50 police officers were injured.  It was truly one of the darkest days in the nation’s history but, in the end, those who sought to angrily impose their will failed.  Entirely.


As we did in the summer, Venture Community Services condemns all acts of violence no matter what convenient justifications may accompany them.  We stand firmly and permanently with the rights of all people to be heard, to matter, to feel safe, and to express themselves peacefully and respectfully without fear of reprisal.  We are a community that values inclusion, diversity, equity, and acceptance.  These are not merely ideas; this is who we are.  The people who comprise the community at Venture represent the best of our country.  We see people with disabilities living meaningful lives in nice homes, participating in society as they like and holding down jobs.  Professionals from all over the world dedicating themselves to helping others.  And selfless individuals who continually brave a global pandemic so they can keep others safe.  These images are more powerful than the chaos that was brought to our nation’s capital and, ultimately, more meaningful.  These are the images that have always made Venture and other agencies safe places for everyone regardless of what happens around us.


At Venture, we will continue to advocate in Washington for increased wages and better healthcare for our employees as well as greater recognition and respect for the people we support.  The incoming presidential administration has indicated a willingness to work more closely with the industry in order to help Medicaid providers and ensure that people who need help can get it.  This is promising and we will work closely with our partners and trade associations to see to it that the people we support and the professionals we employ are not forgotten.  The heinous actions of a group that tried desperately, but unsuccessfully, to change our democracy do not distract us from what is most important at Venture.  We will always be dedicated to continuously growing a community where people are safe and our differences are respected and appreciated.  This is how we have always put our best foot forward in service to others.  Nothing that happened this week can do anything to weaken our resolve.

Washington Needs To Work Harder

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.

TogetherVenture

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:


AWARENESS DAYS

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.

MENTORSHIP PROGRAM

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 together@venturecs.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.

~ Mike Hyland, President & CEO

Heroes Act not Heals Act

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. 

The World Around Us

from Mike Hyland, Venture President & CEO


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.

Have We Been Abandoned?

Post by Mike Hyland, Venture President &CEO


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.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes

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.


~ Mike Hyland, President and CEO

Autism Awareness Police Patches

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!