On Monday, March 26, REACH advocates as well as survivors who participate in our programs will join with hundreds of others at the State House to advocate for legislation and funding that is vital to our work. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts contracts with community based organizations to provide life-saving and life changing services for people in this state. Across the state, local programs provide shelter, advocacy, support and prevention services for thousands of people each year. The cost of delivering these services is significant – from the Cape to Springfield and from Lowell to Dedham. Contracts with the MA Department of Public Health contracts pay a fraction of the cost of these emergency and ongoing services that are available locally and many provided 24×7.
For the coming fiscal year (starting July 1, 2018) the Commonwealth is budgeting just over $34 million to pay for “Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention and Treatment Services.” We – as part of our state coalition – are asking for more. Why? Because programs across the state cannot meet the existing demand for services. And with the increase in awareness from #MeToo and #TimesUp and other campaigns, the demand is increasing daily. We need more funds to retain our skilled, knowledgeable, experienced and tired staff. We need more funds to hire additional staff and train more volunteers. We need funds to maintain our facilities and acquire the supplies that families in crisis require. We need funds to do more early work to promote healthy relationships. We are asking for just over $37.5 million, an increase of $3.5m.
On March 26, we will talk with legislators about our budget request. We will also talk with them about our legislative priorities. At REACH, our colleagues are working with survivors, local leaders and neighbors to raise awareness and ask for support of several bills.
Safe Communities is sponsored by Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Juana Matias and would limit police involvement in immigration enforcement. As our Executive Director Laura Van Zandt recently wrote in a Globe West OpEd, we support this Act “because it will ensure everyone in our Commonwealth can freely seek protection from our police and our courts without fear of their families being torn apart by deportation.”
Lift the Cap on Kids! is sponsored by Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Marjorie Decker. This bill will remove the “Family Cap” which denies benefits to children conceived while – or soon after – a family receives assistance. The state is denying benefits to over 9,000 kids because of the Cap which causes everyone in that family to suffer, trying to make limited funds stretch further. Massachusetts is one of only 17 states that still have a “cap” – seven states that had cap policies have repealed them.
Senator Michael Moore and Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier have sponsored An Act Relative to Sexual Violence on Higher Education Campuses. This bill will strengthen campus policy against sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking, raise awareness and improve prevention programming (something REACH is already doing at several area institutions!) and improve access to resources for survivors. Massachusetts has more than 500,000 students at our institutions of higher learning – and far too many are victimized during that time. Prevention is a sound financial investment.
You can help us by contacting your state legislators and letting them know that you are a voter who cares about these issues! For more information, visit Jane Doe Inc.’s website.