During recent Senate debate on the state budget, the body adopted several amendments offered by State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, to fund programs that assist people living in especially difficult circumstances.
One initiative, run by the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, aims to prevent troubled young people from re-entering the juvenile justice system. The Senate voted $500,000 for the Corps’ Detention Diversion Program.
“Programs that keep kids out of lock up make a difference,” Barrett said. Even a short time spent in juvenile detention damages educational and job prospects. RFK provides 24/7 case management for kids while they await trial, including coordination with probation staff, curfew checks, and weekly family check-ins.
“I see the effects of detention on the lives of children all the time,” said Dorchester Juvenile Court Judge Leslie Harris, Ret. “This is the only program in the Massachusetts courts that addresses the problem.”
A second Barrett amendment adds funds for the Secure Jobs Initiative, which connects low-income parents in homeless shelters and emergency housing to job training and job placement services, including follow-up support for a full year.
Barrett also increased funding for the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, charged with preventing abuse against persons with disabilities. DPPC runs a hotline to accept reports of abuse, oversees investigations, and develops plans to protect victims from further harm.
Budget cuts in recent years have forced the agency to reduce staff. Barrett’s amendment boosts funding by $250,000 to pay for three new staff members.
The Senate budget also includes:
- $4.63B in Chapter 70 education aid, a $116.1M increase benefiting every school district, including a minimum increase of $55 per pupil;
- $136.4M for substance abuse prevention and treatment, allowing for 150 new residential treatment beds and other lifesaving programs;
- $6.2M for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program to provide nearly 200 new vouchers for low income people with disabilities and help them transition from nursing homes to independent housing;
- $15M for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support the state’s thriving creative economy.
The next step is a conference committee to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget.