State healthcare staff and supporters engaged in peaceful civil disobedience Thursday during a sit-in at the Connecticut State Capitol in demand of a budget that restores and expands public lifesaving services.
The sit-in concluded with the detention of 15 individuals. The group of detainees included public servants who are nurses, children’s services workers, teachers, faith leaders and social workers. All individuals are expected to be released today by Capitol Police.
“We can’t keep this up for much longer. It’s heartbreaking to know that people are waiting for weeks or months to get care. And we keep losing staff,” said Darnell Ford, Lead Children Services Workers at the Department of Children and Families. “It’s not only about the budget. Agency administrators must do a much better job finding people to fill these vacancies with urgency. When we restore and expand services, we’ll be able to help people in need in every corner of Connecticut so they can return to their families and their communities in good health.”
With increasing demand and fewer services available, our safety-net of healthcare and mental health supports is weaker today than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 2,000 vacancies remain in public healthcare services.
“The reason I’m here at this rally is because it’s the right thing to do. We’re understaffed and our patients are suffering,” said Sally Bell, a nurse’s aide at Rocky Hill Veterans Home & Hospital.
Services like Solnit Children’s Center are operating below 50% capacity at a time of growing demand. The STAR program for women seeking to recover from addiction was consolidated into the men’s unit due to lack of staff. On balance, 1 in every 3 healthcare positions remain unfilled.
“Connecticut strives to be a leader for equity yet is falling short when it comes to legislating equity into the state budget. Being a leader for equity requires a robust investment in the public services that uplift our most marginalized and under-resourced communities. We will never achieve true equity or our collective potential if we do not ensure access to lifesaving services, especially for women and girls, people of color, and people living with poverty,” said Janée Woods Weber, Executive Director of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund.
The State of Connecticut must restore and expand public services that bring healthcare, mental health, and addiction recovery to underserved communities. We must address the healthcare staffing shortage urgently through effective recruitment and retention strategies that meet the state’s duty to care for children and adults in need.
“When the state relies on saving money in the budget as a result of unfilled state employee positions, this is done with seemingly no recognition of the fact that the people who rely on the state-operated human and social services safety net are being deprived of services. We are talking about an entire system of care that depends both on state-operated facilities and state-funded private nonprofit providers. Without adequately resourcing all parts of the system, we risk unnecessary segregation and institutionalization and erect barriers to participation in community life. We can do better, and we must,” said Kathy Flaherty, Executive Director of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project.
SEIU District 1199NE, the New England Health Care Employees Union, represents over 25,000 caregivers in Connecticut and some 4,000 in Rhode Island. Historically known as “1199” going back to the Civil Rights Movement, we are a bold, democratic Union with a long activist tradition fighting for racial and economic justice to improve the lives of Black, Latina, Native American, AAPI, and white working-class communities.
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