Published: December 9, 2019
By Chris Tuttle, President & Chief Executive Officer
2019 was a year of introspection, advocacy and growth for Bridgewell, both internally and within the community. As the new year approaches, I’d like to reflect upon the programs, services and new initiatives of 2019 that have shaped us as a non-profit and share thoughts on where we’re headed in 2020.
Over the last 12 months, Bridgewell has become a stronger advocate at both the local and state level, speaking out about pressing issues affecting human services agencies across the Commonwealth. At the forefront is the workforce crisis. Research estimates Massachusetts needs another 24,000 human services workers to meet a rising demand. The single biggest factor contributing to the loss of qualified workers from the community-based human services sector is the pay inequity between private workers and their state counterparts.
To help combat this and raise more awareness around the issue, Bridgewell worked with six other local human services agencies to organize a Legislative Breakfast, banding together as a unified voice in support of bills addressing fair pay for comparable work in Massachusetts. Several Senators and Representatives were present, including Sen. Joan Lovely, Rep. Daniel Cahill, Rep. Peter Capano, Rep. Marcos Devers, Rep. Lori Ehrlich, Rep. Paul Tucker and Rep. Thomas Walsh. Passage of this critically needed legislation will be the first step in addressing the catastrophic situation human services providers are facing.
Our valued employees are also taking a stand and speaking out. This spring, 60 Bridgewell staff members attended the 8th annual Caring Force Rally at the State House in support of eliminating the pay disparity. In addition to Bridgewell becoming a stronger voice, we are also in the process of developing and starting a Family and Persons Served Advisory Committee to help families have a stronger voice in Bridgewell. In 2020, we’ll keep advocating for issues that impact human services agencies and the people we serve, at both the state and local level.
At our annual Imagine the Possibilities Gala in March, we posthumously honored the late Kelly J. Martin, Bridgewell’s former President and CEO, and her commitment to the people we serve and the legacy she built during her 35-year career. As CEO, her leadership laid the foundation for our programs and services, and her vision and service to this organization will never be forgotten.
In 2019, we offered services through our more than 100 programs across 23 communities throughout the North Shore and Merrimack Valley. A large portion of our programs are still based in Lynn, including the Recuperative Care Center (RCC). At the RCC, we work in conjunction with Lynn Community Health Center to provide homeless people a safe place to heal and recover from an acute illness or injury. This year, more than 60 people have been served, and we’ve connected several guests with housing, helping them transition back into society through our 148 affordable housing units in Lynn. The vital services the RCC provides is mainly supported by a three-year grant, which is coming close to its end. In 2020, we’ll advocate for homeless funding at the state and federal level, to sustain this important program that benefits the people who need these services, local hospitals and the city of Lynn.
Another highlight of 2019 was our progress in connecting more people with developmental disabilities to meaningful work. We developed new partnerships with local businesses and worked to fill a growing need to educate employers about the wide range of abilities and skillsets that people with disabilities have to offer the workforce.
Internally, we’ve developed a new strategic plan and organizational structure and revamped Bridgewell’s vision and mission statements. Our vision, “to be unwavering in the pursuit of dignity and opportunity for all who face life challenges,” encapsulates what we do. Throughout 2019, we fulfilled our mission to “inspire hope and empower people experiencing life challenges to achieve their fullest potential,” and we’ll continue to do so in 2020 and beyond.