PITTSFIELD, Mass. (Apr. 11, 2018) – On Friday, March 23rd, legislators, caregivers, individuals and staff from Berkshire County human service agencies gathered for the 18th Annual Legislative Breakfast “Let Our Voice Be Heard: Advocating for Support and Services for People with Disabilities” at the Berkshire Hills Country Club in Pittsfield, MA. Kenneth W. Singer, President and CEO of Berkshire County Arc facilitated the event. Guests were entertained with a moving song by individuals from Berkshire Hills Music Academy that opened and closed the breakfast. Participating in the forum were State Senator Adam Hinds and Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and John Barrett, III with remarks by representatives from the offices of Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Richard Neal.

Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer and North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard provided remarks, which were followed by stories from human service employees, individuals, and parents about the extensive level of care that they provide and receive from these local organizations.

The legislators in attendance expressed their sentiments for the work of staff and the services that are provided right here in Berkshire County. They consistently select human services as one of their top priorities come budget season time and will continue to fight for the rights of individuals with disabilities here in Berkshire County and in Washington.

Listed below are some of the stories that family members and individuals shared which clearly demonstrated their strength and perseverance in the handling of great challenging and also spoke highly of the incredible agencies that help support them every step of the way.

Sue and Rick Gore, whose son lives in one of the Berkshire County Arc (BCARC) residences, spoke about their journey with their son David. They were first introduced to BCArc through the Respite Services program when they needed some additional supports on the weekends. David enjoyed his time so much, and was so well provided for, that after a few years, Sue and Rick made the tough decision to eventually place David into one of the BCArc full-time residences. David is very happy in his home away from home, located just a few miles from Sue and Rick. He sees his family regularly and enjoys time and outings with his housemates.

Jennifer Thompson and her family moved to the Berkshires from Florida as she was unable to find the appropriate care for her daughter. She was unable to feed herself or communicate effectively, but after moving to Berkshire County and finding support services with UCP, that all changed immensely. The team at UCP set them up with assistive technology and now she communicates on an iPad and even has special utensils to be able to feed herself independently.

Autism Connections was a saving grace for Betty Hakes and her son. They have helped her navigate the tricky system of finding services and advocated for her in the school system to get the supports needed for her son who is on the spectrum. From a very young age, Betty knew that her son had a disability but was not able to get a diagnosis and the services needed in a timely fashion; until she met Erica Donovan at Autism Connections who helped connect her with the resources she needed.

The event was made possible through the efforts of the following attending partner agencies: Ad Lib, Inc.; Autism Connections; BAROCO Corporation; Berkshire County Arc; Berkshire Family & Individual Resources, Inc.; Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts; Department of Developmental Services; Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires; Guidewire, Inc.; Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission; ServiceNet; and United Cerebral Palsy Association of Berkshire County.

(press release sent to WSBS for online and on-air use)