Home > Uncategorized > Baker administration continues Gov. Patrick’s misguided effort to close sheltered workshops

Baker administration continues Gov. Patrick’s misguided effort to close sheltered workshops

As the Legislature takes up Governor Baker’s budget for the coming fiscal year, it looks as though the battle over sheltered workshops for the developmentally disabled in Massachusetts is set to begin once again.

Supporters of these vital programs won a reprieve last year when the Legislature inserted protective language for the workshops in the current-year budget.  The language prohibits the Department of Developmental Services from closing or cutting off funding for sheltered workshops as long as there are people who seek them or wish to remain in them.

The budget language temporarily thwarted the efforts of then Governor Patrick to close all remaining sheltered workshops in the state as of this coming June.  But the protective language has been removed from Governor Baker’s proposed budget for fiscal 2016.

It appears that despite the fact that we have a new governor, it is the same DDS with the same administrators running it; and they will never back away from their ideological opposition to any program that serves more than a handful of disabled individuals in one location.

Sheltered workshops provide settings in which developmentally disabled people can do assembly jobs and other types of work.  In the view of the now Baker administration, such settings of care “segregate” developmentally disabled people from their non-disabled peers, and supposedly prevent them from reaching their potential in the mainstream workforce.

Many families and guardians of workshop participants, however, want these programs to continue and depend on them to provide valuable skills and meaningful activities to the participants.

Last spring, after a lobbying campaign by advocates of the workshops, language was inserted into the current-year budget, stating that DDS “shall not reduce the availability or decrease funding for sheltered workshops serving persons with disabilities who voluntarily seek or wish to retain such employment services.”  The protective language survived a House-Senate conference committee in June, largely due to the support of House Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey.

But Governor Baker’s budget has not only removed that language protecting the workshops, the budget proposes a $4 million increase in a separate DDS account to move people from sheltered workshops into DDS day programs, many of which do not provide work-related activities.

We support the continued operation of sheltered workshops for reasons given in an email sent to Dempsey last May by Richard Urban, who is a guardian of his brother Tom.  In December 2013, DDS closed Tom’s sheltered workshop where he had been employed for most of his adult life. Richard noted that Tom’s “work ethic and paycheck (from his sheltered workshop program) were two constants that allowed him a place on a playing field of equality with his peers, family and friends.”

Since his “forced exit from his workshop,” Richard said, Tom “has grown distant, is very confused, and expresses continued sadness over his job loss.  His identity, and work community, have been lost, through no fault of his own but by virtue of a policy shift for which I am at a complete loss to understand.”

We’re at a loss to understand it as well.

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  1. Anonymous
    March 16, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    So here we go again. With the pushback last year from families, DDS consumers, legislators and other concerned citizens across the state, one would think the administration would have listened to those who know these individuals best and want to see them in settings they are happy in.

    Agencies in MA do offer many different employment opportunities to individuals with developmental disabilities and those capable of community employment are being given those services. For some people, sheltered workshops are the only place they can successfully earn a paycheck. I just don’t understand why DDS and the Governor want to take that away from people.

    Everyone I know who works in a sheltered workshop is proud of their job, looks forward to going to work everyday, has built lifelong friendships with co-workers and loves being part of a team that accomplishes important work.

    Shame on DDS administrators and the Governor for making decisions about a group of people they never have had the pleasure of knowing and working with.

  2. Carol O'Donnell
    March 16, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    Thank you David for letting me know. I’ve been meaning to email the Governor but I figured he had more important things on his plate at the moment than shutting down sheltered workshops. I guess they rate right up there with the MBTA and the terrible winter we’ve had. Just saw on the news how Boston is going to petition the state and federal government to bail them out with their snowfall budget deficit. Governor Baker can give them the 4 million he has slated to close my daughter’s workshop and LEAVE THE WORKSHOPS ALONE!

  3. Janet Marcus
    March 18, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    Perhaps some of the individuals in the workshop should meet at the State House with TV cameras & newspapers informed in advance. They should then seek work at the State House or have these politicians place them in meaningful jobs. It won’t happen, because it won’t work, but publicity is crucial. The $ is destined for the DDS day programs at present according to the message, so someone wants their hands on it, whereas it should remain with the workshops. It is really shameful!

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