Briefcase Departments

Briefcase October 3, 2016

LIPPI Featured in National Storytelling Platform

EASTHAMPTON — The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts’ Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact (LIPPI) was one of several featured programs that launched Tuesday during the rollout of a new national storytelling initiative unveiled by the Women’s Funding Network (WFN) at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting. The uniquely interactive digital tool seeks to bring attention to a leading challenge facing women in the U.S. and around the world — economic security — and lift up the vital work of women’s foundations that are addressing this issue. “Telling the story of local women on a national scale is crucial to the work we do. If we want our communities to thrive, we must ensure the economic security of women,” said Elizabeth Barajas-Román, CEO, of the Women’s Fund. This year, Barajas-Román was invited to represent Western Mass. on the national board of the Women’s Funding Network. The launch highlights the story of the Women’s Fund LIPPI program, a unique leadership institute developed in response to a shortage of women in civic leadership positions, in public office, and serving on boards. The coursework equips women with the tools and confidence to become civic and political leaders. More than 250 participants are now leaders in their local communities; 22 have run for elected office, one received a gubernatorial appointment, one graduate is the first female police chief of Northampton, one ran a successful race for mayor of Pittsfield, and two graduates are serving in executive cabinet positions. Many more continue to serve on various boards and commissions, organizing grassroots campaigns, and raising their collective voices on issues that impact women and families. The Economic Security Digital Storytelling Platform is a data-driven, yet narrative, evidence of women’s foundations’ ongoing commitment to ensuring women’s economic prosperity. The platform gives users the opportunity to explore the data alongside the powerful stories of the women, programs, and organizations making an impact on this issue, breathing life into facts and figures. The responsive and flexible format encourages user engagement and learning by featuring links and downloadable files throughout, as well as links to social media to make these important stories easy to share. WFN’s Economic Security Digital Storytelling Platform can be previewed at economicsecurity.womensfundingnetwork.org.

State Nets $2.5M Grant to Help People with Disabilities Find Jobs

BOSTON — Massachusetts was one of only six states awarded $2.5 million this week by the federal government to help people with disabilities find employment. The grant will target youth and young adults, ages 14 to 24, in Hampden County and the Greater Lowell area by expanding access to credential-based education and training. The U.S. Department of Labor yesterday announced $14.9 million in grants to six states as part of the Disability Employment Initiative. “We know that, unfortunately, people with disabilities face much higher rates of unemployment, and we have been developing plans to tackle that problem for over a year now. One of the first executive orders I signed was to create a task force to look at ways to help people with barriers to employment find and keep jobs,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “This award from the federal government will help us continue that important work, and create more opportunities for young people with disabilities to find fulfilling careers.” According to the U.S. Department of Labor, people with disabilities make up only 19.8% of the nation’s workforce. In Massachusetts, it is estimated that 15% of people with disabilities are unemployed. The grant is expected to serve more than 350 youth and young adults with disabilities. In Massachusetts the funds will also be used to create partnerships with local employers to increase hiring opportunities for young people with disabilities, and expand short-term subsidized work programs. The grant will provide job-retention and placement services to young people who have difficulty finding work due to their disability. “This is the first initiative where we will completely focus on youth and young adults with disabilities in order to help them find and keep employment,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said. “We are thrilled to be one of only a few states to receive this grant, and it will enable us to continue the work started by the task force for people facing higher employment.” The other states to receive grants were Connecticut, California, Idaho, Minnesota, and Maryland. While Massachusetts’ unemployment rate is lower than the national average, at 3.9% in August, certain populations face chronically higher rates of unemployment, including African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, people with disabilities, Native Americans, and recently returned veterans.

Unemployment Rate Drops to 3.9% in August

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 3.9% in August from 4.1% in July, and preliminary estimates show the state gained 5,900 jobs over the month, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. The last time the state’s unemployment rate hit 3.9% was in August 2001. At 3.9%, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is down 0.9% over the year from 4.8% in August 2015. There were 30,300 fewer unemployed residents and 73,000 more employed residents over the year compared to August 2015. Massachusetts’ unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 4.9% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state added fewer jobs over the month in July than the Bureau of Labor Statistics originally estimated, gaining 5,800 jobs compared to the previously published 7,300-job-gain estimate. Year to date, December 2015 to August 2016, Massachusetts has added 61,000 jobs. In August, the largest over-the-month job gains occurred in the leisure and hospitality, education and health services, and other services sectors. The state’s labor force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — is 65.0%. Over the year, the labor-force participation rate has increased 0.2% compared to August 2015.

State Releases Detailed Report on Opioid Epidemic

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration released an in-depth analysis of the state’s opioid-related deaths from 2013 to 2014. The findings reveal that opioid-related deaths have increased by 350% in Massachusetts in 15 years and marks the first time data from multiple state agencies has been linked to give a comprehensive overview of deaths associated with the opioid epidemic. “We are pleased to unveil this report to combine state resources and aggregate data in an innovative way to better understand the drivers behind opioid and heroin-related overdoses,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “We are hopeful that new information will help us better understand the contours of this public-health crisis as we continue to work on prevention, education, and treatment in our communities to combat the opioid crisis in the Commonwealth.” Added Marylou Sudders, secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, “in 2013 and 2014 alone, opioid-related deaths were recorded for two-thirds of the cities and towns in Massachusetts. In the face of this crisis, we must continue our efforts to battle this epidemic that continues to take a record number of lives.” The analysis, performed by the state Department of Public Health, reviewed opioid-related deaths in 2013 and 2014 by analyzing data from multiple government entities including the Department of Public Health, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the Department of Correction, MassHealth, and the Center for Health Information and Analysis. The Commonwealth’s technology agency, MassIT, facilitated integration work to bring the various streams of data together. The report, which was released at a reconvening of the Governor’s Opioid Working Group, chaired by Sudders, is part of continued efforts to improve the collection and release of data examining the impact that opioids have on Bay State communities. Earlier this year, Baker signed landmark opioid legislation into law to address the deadly opioid and heroin epidemic plaguing the Commonwealth. “Opioid-use disorder is a chronic disease, and this epidemic is a complex and persistent problem that will not be solved through a single solution,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel. “This data will be leveraged to allocate resources more efficiently and effectively to help us save lives.” In 2015, the Governor’s Opioid Working Group released recommendations and a comprehensive action plan aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic. These short- and long-term recommendations focus on prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery support. Approximately 93% of the initiatives in the governor’s action plan are complete or underway.

Five Colleges Inc. Breaks Ground for Library Annex

HATFIELD — At a brief ceremony on Sept. 15 attended by campus officials and developers, Five Colleges Inc. broke ground on for its Library Annex on a site it purchased in Hatfield. When complete, the 35,000-square-foot building will provide shelving for up to 2.5 million items from the libraries of the campuses of the consortium — Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith colleges and UMass Amherst — freeing up space for new materials and other academic needs. In addition, it will serve as a temporary home for much of the collection of Smith College’s Neilson Library while it undergoes a major renovation. “This facility will help Smith greatly in coming years. It’s a great example of how the institutions help each other,” said Susan Fliss, Smith College dean of Libraries. Added Chris Loring, the recently retired director of libraries at Smith College and a driving force behind the development of the annex, “this will become another library for us.” The 12-acre parcel is at the junctions of the Interstate 91 exit 22 ramp, West Street, and Plain Road in Hatfield. Five Colleges paid $925,000 for the property, which had been owned by Lynda, Martin, and Sharyn Holich. Site preparation work began on May 17, and work is expected to be complete in May 2017. With climate-controlled conditions for long-term preservation of print materials, the annex will house a part of the Five College library repository collection, which already preserves nearly 600,000 items for its member campuses.

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