SAC Retreat - October 16, 2010

SAC Retreat - January 31, 2009

Members of the Statewide Advisory Council (SAC), Citizen Advisory Board (CAB) Chairs, and Commissioner Elin Howe traveled to Western Massachusetts and devoted a Saturday to enhancing legislative advocacy skills, buttressing the CAB network, and generally strengthening the communication and collaboration between the boards and the SAC. All but three of the thirty advisory boards were represented. "The level of participation and enthusiasm is remarkable", states SAC Chair, Christine Shane. "It reflects both the dedication of advisory board chairs and the awareness of the challenges we face." Shane chaired the day's events and provided guidance on how the information was applicable to CAB activities.

During the course of the day, Chairs described the work of their boards, particularly regarding quality enhancement through Family Citizen Monitoring, legislative advocacy, and recruitment of self-advocates and younger families as advisory board members.

Commissioner Elin Howe thanked the participants for their leadership of advisory boards and, with senior staff, provided an update on key Department activities. A detailed review of the recently released House 1 budget was followed by an energetic discussion. The Commissioner described the likely scenario of services and supports with funding at that level. Participants shared their ideas on various alternatives and a commitment was made for regular discussions and updates for advisory boards.

SAC Secretary, Hank Paszko, distributed emergency preparedness materials to inform and assist Boards for large or small, local or regional, natural or man-made emergencies. "It is important that each individual, each family, and each advisory board appreciate the necessity to be ready for any contingency," he said. "Having a family communication plan, water and food, and knowing the town's emergency plan is important." Board chairs were encouraged to share the information with their members and to invite department or community speakers on the topic.

Leo Sarkissian, Executive Director of Arc Massachusetts, spoke to participants about legislative advocacy. Contact information on Massachusetts Senators and Representatives was distributed as well as a worksheet with key points on effective advocacy. An active discussion ensued with members asking, "What information should I bring to the legislator?', "Is it better to see the legislator at the State House or in the local office?" and "Should I be disappointed if I talk to an aide rather than the legislator?" In light of the international economic crisis and its impact on state revenues, members acknowledged the importance of advocacy in the coming months and years.

In describing the state budgetary process, Leo noted the importance of meeting with legislators to say "thank you", to invite them to visit programs, and to have them meet families. "It is important for legislators to see the human faces behind the statistics that they get. It helps them to appreciate the impact of their decisions," he stated. Board chairs and there members were urged to join the Arc Mass listserve to obtain current information on budget and policy issues.

Christine Shane closed the meeting by thanking Monson Developmental Center Director, Jane Arthur, and her staff for their making the space available and accommodating the SAC and Chairs. She acknowledged the distances that so many members traveled to attend the meeting and their enthusiastic participation and leadership of their advisory board. All were invited to the monthly SAC meeting and she indicated her plan to visit with them.

SAC Retreat - January 12, 2008

This information is provided by the Department of Developmental Services.