Happy New Year!
I had difficulty celebrating the 2022 New Year. I was certainly unable to make any resolutions. After all, I’ve spent the last two years being very resolute. As the third year of the pandemic loomed, I saw the year beginning with a continued onslaught of information, from new or revised protocols, to new plans to protect our health, our community, and our way of life. But what I didn’t see was any real difference as a result of those protocols. Our holidays were still upended by this pandemic.
The holiday season has always been a cherished time in my role at Springbrook. It offers a connection to the people who make up Springbrook, be they family members, students, residents, staff, or donors. I missed the celebrations and contact with the Springbrook community of individuals, families, and incredible staff!
Being connected to the people of Springbrook — to our mission — is one reason I chose the location
of my office. My space looks out on Springbrook’s main campus playground and the pathways used by many of the students going to and from school. This vantage point gives me the opportunity to glance over my computer screen to see the reasons why I am at Springbrook.
I was glancing at students and staff while I watched Governor Hochul’s State of the State address in December. I was cautiously optimistic. After all, we have a new governor, a new Commissioner for the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, and projected higher state revenues and federal stimulus money. As I listened, I realized it was the first time that the people who we rely on at Springbrook — the New York workforce of essential employees — were recognized at such a level.
They were told that they are a priority. They were promised recognition, educational opportunities, and a living wage. For health care workers, the essential direct support professionals (DSPs) who support people with special needs, for teachers and day care workers, I felt a surge of hope.
Fast forward to January 22 and the draft of the Governor’s budget that was released. There, in black and white, I saw opportunities for many people in New York State. In that draft was an ambitious agenda to:
• Rebuild our healthcare and teacher workforce
• Provide tax relief to people who need it the most
• Speed up economic growth and create good-paying middle class jobs
• Strengthen our infrastructure and confront climate change
• Secure public safety and make housing more affordable
• Ensure that every New Yorker has a roof over their heads
An ambitious agenda, I have to agree. An agenda that could get the Governor elected next year, perhaps. More importantly, an agenda that is needed for the essential staff providing health care, support services, education, and child care for our community.
Springbrook just announced a significant increase to our wages across the organization. With the support of many and exceptional planning, we made those increases a reality. Springbrook has an ambitious agenda. One that continues to prioritize our essential employees. An agenda that will be enhanced with the approval of the Governor’s budget.
While I had difficulty celebrating the New Year, I look to April as the time to pop open the bubbly! I look forward to school graduations, employee luncheons, and employees being recognized at the level they should be! I urge you to look at the Governor’s budget. I urge you to encourage the Governor to add a base wage increase for DSPs.
I urge you to support every essential person who has supported you throughout this pandemic!
Springbrook provides at-home care, residential and educational services, day services, and clinical, therapeutic, and behavioral support to over 1,100 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Author of this piece, Patricia Kennedy, is CEO of Springbrook.