BOSTON – Today, during a policy briefing at the Massachusetts State House, State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) was presented with the 2014 Community Mediation Outstanding Champion Award by the Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration at University of Massachusetts - Boston and the Community Mediation Coalition of Massachusetts.
Downing was honored for to his leadership in establishing the Community Mediation Center Grant Program to broaden access to justice for all Commonwealth citizens.
During the Fiscal Year 2013 Senate budget deliberations Downing secured funding and authored language to create the Community Mediation Center Grant Program, administered by the Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration, which supports the work of fourteen community mediation centers statewide. Community mediation is a conflict resolution mechanism that greatly enhances access to justice, especially to low-income populations who may not have the resources to advocate for themselves in court. The 14 mediation centers, staffed by over 600 trained staff, leverage federal and private investment in communities, while saving cities, towns, school districts, employers and the already cash-strapped judiciary system millions in avoided court costs.
Locally, the Housing & Mediation Services Program of Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority; Quabbin Mediation, Inc.; and The Mediation and Training Collaborative of Community Action of the Franklin, Hampshire, and North Quabbin Regions, Inc. provide community mediation services within Downing’s Senate district.
The grant program was extended in the FY2014 budget; advocates are currently seeking $875,000 in the FY2015 budget to provide operational funding to the community mediation centers. Conflicts resolved through community mediation often center around a wide-range of family, neighborhood and community issues.
Downing’s colleague, State Representative Sarah K, Peake (D- Provincetown) was similarly honored at today’s event. Representative Peake has worked with Downing as the House lead to secure funding for the Community Mediation Center Grant Program.
Photo Caption: Senator Ben Downing and Rep. Sarah Peake receive the 2014 Community Mediation Outstanding Champion Award. L to R: Susan Jeghelian, Ex. Director of the Mass. Office of Public Collaboration; Rep. Sarah Peake; Senator Downing; Betsy Bryant Williams, Mediation and Training Collaborative in Greenfield.
Photo Credit: Office of Senator Ben Downing. Electronic copies available upon request.