Janus of Santa Cruz workers and community allies picket for fair wages

NewsMay 31, 2019

Dozens of  workers and community allies picketed Santa Cruz County’s largest non-profit drug rehabilitation center picketed Thursday to protest low pay that has resulted in massive worker turnover and growing waits for patients to access the center’s drug rehabilitation services.

The picket was covered by the Santa Cruz Sentinel, KION and Univsion.

In the 18 months since Janus workers joined NUHW, approximately 60 percent of them have left for other jobs. With its workforce in constant flux, Janus has served far fewer patients in recent years and forced more of them to wait for services that were once immediately accessible — exacerbating Santa Cruz’s addiction crisis.

“We have a wait list,” Jammie Arterberry, a Janus admissions counselor, said prior to the picket. “When a client is ready and they come in and they are begging for their life and they want a change, I apologize and I let them know I’ll put you on the list. And I have to do that every single day.”

As Santa Cruz grapples with a drug addiction crisis, many frontline caregivers at Janus of Santa Cruz are struggling to survive on wages well below the county’s $16.65 hourly living wage rate. Yet, Janus has refused to offer significant raises. When workers earlier this month rejected management’s “final offer” of a 1 percent raise with increased health care costs, management imposed a one-year status-quo contract with no raises.

“This job is my calling, but I can’t support my family on what they’re paying me,” said Matt Van Nuys, a drug addiction counselor, who was recently evicted from his home along with his wife and infant son. “So many of my coworkers have left because they couldn’t make ends meet, and the people who suffer most are our clients who can’t count on us to see them through their recovery.”

Janus’ filings with the California Department of Healthcare Services shows how the agency’s revolving door for workers has impacted care. From 2016 through 2018 the number of clients completing treatment fell 29 percent from 424 to 301, yet the number of clients who had to wait for either inpatient or outpatient treatment nearly doubled from 171 to 331 during the same period. In 2016, 74 percent of clients received immediate inpatient addiction services. But in the first quarter of 2019, only 7 percent of clients received immediate impatient treatment, according to Janus’ state filings.