Monday, May 21, 2012
Legislators Gather in Watertown to Rally for Human Service Providers
Beacon Hill lawmakers seek to increase funding for programs serving the disabled, seniors and others. Focuses include cutting fares for The Ride and saving the Fernald Pool in Waltham.

Keeping the Fernald Pool in Waltham open and restoring funding for groups that serve the disabled, elderly and others in need are a priority for Watertown State Rep. Jonathan Hecht.

He and other legislators pledged their support for human service providers and their clients at the 9th annual Metro Suburban Advocacy Initiative East Legislative Breakfast, held Friday at Watertown’s Hellenic Cultural Center.

The pool in Waltham is part of the Fernald State School, which is set to close, but Hecht said the pool is a unique resource for the disabled that should be saved.

“People with physical and mental disabilities can go up there and the health benefits and quality of life improvements are huge,” Hecht said.

The pool is designed for those with physical disabilities, is kept at a temperature so that physical therapy can be done and provides a welcoming environment for those with disabilities, Hecht said. The pool serves a wide area of communities around Waltham, he said.

Cuts to the human services have been deep, but to increase funding will require more revenue said State. Rep. Denise Provost, D-Somerville.

State Sen. Will Brownsberger, who serves Belmont, Watertown and parts of Boston, said he wants to make sure the state is getting as much tax revenue as possible under the current rate.

“Next year will be an opportunity to take a hard look at revenue,” Brownsberger said. “We will look at tax loopholes – the holes that all the revenue runs through so we are not able to provide to human services you serve.”

Controlling the cost of the “T,” especially for seniors who use The Ride, will be a focus for State Rep. Sean Garballey, D-Arlington, who also serves Medford.

“We need to stop service cuts, and also reduce fares as much as possible,” Garballey said. “For seniors who use The Ride, fares will go from $2 to $4. For those riding everyday, if you add that up it is a lot.”

Human and social service providers should get paid more said State Rep. Paul Donato, D-Medford, who also serves Malden, and the Human Services Salary Reserve would help do that.

“People who provide human serves should be treated with dignity and paid those people a salary they can live on, so they are not in the same situation as the people they take care of,” Donato said.