Google Invest in Inclusive Housing

Google is putting up $5.3 million to help make an inclusive apartment complex — catering to those with and without developmental disabilities — a reality. The technology giant said last week that it will invest in The Kelsey Ayer Station, a development planned in San Jose, Calif. The fully-accessible 115-unit complex is designed to offer rents that are affordable to people of varying income levels and 25 percent of the homes will be reserved for people with developmental disabilities. Earlier this year, Google pledged to create a $250 million investment fund to spur the development of at least 5,000 affordable housing units in the San Francisco Bay Area where the company is based. The commitment to The Kelsey represents its first project under that initiative.

“The Kelsey’s first development in San Jose will be a pioneering, inclusive housing community,” said Alexa Arena, Google’s San Jose real estate development director. “Google is very excited t0 be a part of The Kelsey and we’re looking forward to more opportunities to help with the creation and preservation of affordable housing.”  In a blog post, Micaela Connery, founder and CEO of The Kelsey, said the development will be a place where individuals with and without disabilities can “live, play and serve together.” Located near a light rail station and in walking distance to downtown San Jose, there will be a spot for accessible transit to drop people off, a sensory garden and space for support staff. In addition, two staff members will live on site to help connect residents with each other and their community as well as the services and supports they need, Connery said.

Google’s investment will help with costs for the land purchase and design work, while encouraging others to provide financing and donations for the project, Connery said. It will also allow developers to follow through on their goal of moving in residents in four years, she said. “The Kelsey Ayer Station will demonstrate what’s possible when people, funding and cities come together with a shared commitment to inclusion,” Connery wrote. “With help from companies like Google and cities like San Jose we’re well on our way and we’re confident that their support will attract others to step up to make inclusive community a reality.”



Rutherford's Mental Health Commission Hosts Meeting In Hagerstown

Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford wanted to hear about mental health care in a recent visit to Washington County. Rutherford is head of a commission that is studying challenges such as the public’s ability to get adequate information about mental health care in the state. There are also problems such as a lack of psychiatrists and psychologists, state officials said.

Rutherford’s Commission to Study Mental and Behavioral Health hosted a western regional meeting at Hagerstown Community College on Wednesday, which gave the public a chance to testify about mental health issues. A variety of professionals were sitting at the commission table, including those representing the Maryland General Assembly, Maryland State Police, state prisons, and other state agencies and organizations.

Rutherford said Gov. Larry Hogan earlier this year signed an executive order creating the commission, which will give recommendations to Hogan about the delivery of mental health care in the state.

Christian Miele of the Maryland Department of Disabilities talked about information that is available about mental health care services in the state. There are various websites about mental health care in the state, Miele said. But the information is disjointed, and people have trouble determining where to look for help, Miele said.

Rutherford said he used to view opioid abuse and mental disorders as separate. But he now sees them as connected the more he studies the issues. Left undiagnosed, mental illness can lead to homelessness, joblessness and suicide, Rutherford said.

Source: Herald Media


State Workforce Shortage Lead to Dangerous Conditions

The shortage of 2,000 state employees in critical places like prisons and psychiatric hospitals is leading to unmanageable workloads and dangerous working conditions, members of the state’s largest employee union (AFSCME) told lawmakers last week. A briefing about staffing shortages for members of the House Appropriations and Senate Budget & Taxation committees last week was prompted, in part, by recent violent incidents, lawmakers said. But the issue is one that has been building for several years.

In January, there were about 1,970 vacancies or unfilled positions among correctional officers, the Department of State Police, Department of Juvenile Services and Department of Health, according to a staffing adequacy study by the Department of Legislative Services. Overall, legislative analysts concluded that 1,126 more positions are needed in state government agencies and 1,505 positions that are vacant should be filled to meet staffing goals.

Maryland Budget Secretary David R. Brinkley said the average vacancy rate for state government employees is 11.8 percent, a figure that has been on the increase for the last decade, particularly for certain jobs in specific agencies.

Health Secretary Robert R. Neall said his agency is holding weekly conference calls about staffing levels and concerns about safety. The department has also recently worked to move violent patients out of less-secure facilities and to the state’s maximum-security psychiatric facility, Clifton T. Perkins Hospital. Since May, there has been a 36 percent reduction in vacancies at the state’s five psychiatric hospitals and two mental health residential treatment facilities for adolescents, Neall said.

Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Robert Green, who has been in the position for about six months, said he understands and fully embraces the urgency of the understaffing issue. He estimated that the state needs to fill about 1,200 correctional officer positions. So far this year, the department has hired 538 new employees, including 231 correctional officers. Another 257 people are going through the application process to become correctional officers, Green said. The department has streamlined the hiring process and has given dozens of conditional hiring offers at job events. The Hogan administration raised the starting salary for new correctional officers to $42,013.

AFSCME members urged the committee to pursue additional hiring and retention incentives, including an expansion of the student loan forgiveness program Hogan launched last year, updated job descriptions, and increased salaries ― for new hires and long-term state employees.

Source and Excerpts: MarylandMatters


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