For Immediate Release - October 13, 2010

Patrick-Murray Administration Honors Personal Care Attendants at State House Ceremony

Five Massachusetts residents recognized for their work with elders and people with disabilities

BOSTON - The Patrick-Murray Administration today honored five individuals from across the Commonwealth for their dedication and service as personal care attendants (PCAs) for elders and people with disabilities at an event at the State House. The Paul Kahn Award for PCA Service award acknowledges the vital role that PCAs play in assisting with tasks of everyday living for thousands of Massachusetts residents.

"Caring for elders and persons with disabilities in their own homes must be a meaningful option for those who choose community living," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby. "PCAs are the backbone of our 'Community First' efforts for many of our MassHealth consumers, and we cannot do this work without them."

"Personal care attendants are an indispensable link to independent, community-based living for thousands of seniors and persons with disabilities," said Dr. Jean McGuire, Assistant Secretary for Disability Policy and Programs in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

PCAs support elders, adults and children with daily activities, including bathing, dressing, meal preparation and other tasks they are not able to do for themselves. PCAs also make it possible for many people with disabilities to go to work by helping them physically prepare for a day in the workplace.

The recipients honored today are:

Rosa D. Amegah of Worcester is a Licensed Practical Nurse who has worked as a PCA for 30 years. Discussing her work, Ms. Amegah said, "It is not about the money. It is about the caring and being there for a person in need."

Amarilis DePina of Brockton has worked as a PCA for five years and as a Certified Nursing Assistant for more than 20 years. Ms. DePina was nominated by her consumer, Susan, who said, "Amarilis has come in bad snow, ice, rain or wind storms. Even when her husband passed away unexpectedly, she found coverage to take care of me."

Maria C. Garcia of Lynn has been a PCA for more than 10 years. In her nomination letter, her consumer's surrogate said, "Maria does not think twice about giving up her weekend or working hours that are not going to be paid. Maria is not only Janet's PCA but also her friend."

Mary C. Ketter of East Boston said about her work, "PCA work is very hard, but getting to know my employer on a personal level is very rewarding. I love this job." She was nominated by her consumer, Linda, who said, "Mary started working for me several years after she moved here from Kenya. Mary learned to perform my complicated care with an expertise that I had never before witnessed. Mary also provides valuable insights regarding my medical issues to my health care providers and trains other PCAs in the complex aspects of my daily care."

Eric Osgood of Bondsville was nominated by Judy Sherman, a service coordinator at the state's Department of Developmental Services. Talking about Eric's work with Scott, his consumer, Judy said, "Eric opened up his world to Scott, introducing him to his son and a new array of friends. Over the past six years, Eric has been an integral part of Scott's world, respectfully attending to his emotional and physical needs. Eric has helped a young man to gain success, maturity and greater independence."

The award is named for Paul Kahn, a long-time advocate for disability rights who was one of the first people in Massachusetts to use personal care attendants in the mid-1970s; Kahn passed away earlier this year. Today's event was hosted by the state's Personal Care Attendant Quality Home Care Workforce Council, 1199SEIU Health Care Workers East and Rewarding Work Resources.

In an effort to streamline the recruitment and hiring of PCAs, the Patrick-Murray Administration last year launched an online PCA Referral Directory, a comprehensive listing of personal care assistants ready to provide care in an individual's home. Consumers can find qualified PCAs more easily by searching the website by zip code and other criteria, such as access to a car, hours of availability and experience. PCAs can submit job applications and resumes online or by telephone. Since last year, more than 7,000 people have registered to work as PCAs.

Veronica Turner, Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU Health Care Workers East, said, "The 26,000 personal care assistants in Massachusetts are doing valuable work - supporting elders and people with disabilities in their homes. These are the jobs of the future in Massachusetts, and we as a Commonwealth need to recognize the work PCAs do."

"This event provides an opportunity for true unsung heroes to be recognized for their tremendous dedication and hard work," said Elenore Parker, President of Rewarding Work Resources, a non-profit organization that manages the Massachusetts PCA Workforce Directory on behalf of the Commonwealth. "We look forward to continuing to bring their stories to the public's attention."

The Patrick-Murray Administration's "Community First" long-term care agenda ensures that elders and people with disabilities have access to community-living supports that address each individual's diverse needs, abilities and backgrounds. PCAs are an integral part of creating and maintaining opportunities for community living.

In 2008, Governor Deval Patrick announced the Commonwealth's first Olmstead Plan, a roadmap and action plan for ensuring that the Commonwealth's 1.6 million elders and people with disabilities have access to the full range of home and community-based services, including case management and housing supports.

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