WHAT: Rally and press conference to support new legislation for Mental Health Workers Bill of Rights, speak out against unjust firings
WHERE: 800 Central Ave, Butner, NC
WHEN: Thursday, April 7th 8:00am
WHO: UE local 150, NC Public Service Workers Union mental health worker members
Press contact: Dante Strobino, UE150 Field Organizer, 919-539-2051
UE Local 150, NC Public Service Workers Union Department of Health and Human Services Council will be hosting a rally and press conference to call for passage of a mental health workers bill of rights and challenge unjust disciplinary actions that are a result of the continued state and local budget cuts that effect mental healthcare services and workers.
UE150 members are gravely concerned about the heightened number of experienced frontline workers that have been fired in recent months. Many of the most qualified workers are being forced out of state facilities by unjust discipline and due to the dangerous work conditions and low wages. This has created a sustained atmosphere of low morale. These conditions only worsen the services provided to the patients and individuals.
On March 17, Rebecca Hart, health care technician, model worker at Central Regional Hospital was fired. After being nominated Employee of the Month and intervening in a patient that was not assigned to her, she was fired for alleged “patient abuse”. Rebecca had volunteered for overtime to cover the understaffed unit and had worked 63.5 hours, without a day off, the 7 days prior to incident. The same patient involved in the incident with Rebecca, injured many workers in the weeks prior to this incident, including kicking Rebecca in the eye and hitting another HCT between the eyes moments before her intervention. Rebecca had never abused a patient nor had any write-ups in her file. She was known to be one of the best at de-escalating patients in times of crisis and was nominated by management to be on the Therapeutic Response Team, despite not being paid a dime to do this dangerous work.
UE150 recently hosted two major public hearings for mental health workers in Butner on November 20, 2010 and in Goldsboro on February 5, 2011 (see enclosed report from the hearings). These hearings heard testimony from dozens of DHHS workers from across the state. The hearing panels composed of elected officials, patient advocates, clergy, civil rights leaders and community leaders made the following conclusions:
1. The Mental Health Care Workers’ Bill of Rights guarantees basic standards for quality care, and these rights should be established as law to require basic standards in the workplace.
2. Safety and health issues for both workers and patients stemming from understaffing/forced overtime require an end to the forced overtime policy and proper training.
3. The Zero Tolerance Policy, which has lead to increased firings and injuries, should be immediately overturned.
4. Salaries should be increased to retain qualified staff.
5. Workers should be allowed representation of their choice at all levels of the grievance procedure and access to all information they need in a timely fashion to prevent unnecessary firings and keep staff moral high.
6. The ban on collective bargaining should be repealed so that public employees can effectively address and resolve their day-to-day issues on the job.
Coming out of these hearings, Rep. Larry Bell drafted a legislative bill (House Bill 287), for a Mental Health Workers Bill of Rights. On April 4th, Senator Ed Jones introduced a companion Senate bill, SB 481.