Sunday, January 25, 2009

Monday, December 29, 2008

On the job

Jennifer A. Foley, Front-End Manager / Human Resources, Klem’s, Spencer

What do you do?

“I started off as a cashier, and it has always been my primary main position throughout high school. I used to come in one day a week when I was in college and work in the office. After I graduated, that’s when I got the promotion to do what I do now. But it’s always been just cashier. Now I’m the front-end manager because I know the systems inside and out.”

What do you do in human resources?

“I help out with some of the insurance work and I process our payroll.”

Have the ice storms, snowstorms and bad economy hurt business?

“You’d think with the weather that we’ve had it would get slow, but we were busy this weekend like you never even would know there was snow, what with it being the last weekend before Christmas. We sell snow blowers, so actually we were very, very busy. Our generators flew off the shelves in an hour.”

Is the day after Christmas usually the busiest day of the year for you?

“It’s very hectic that day in different aspects. In one way we have people coming in with exchanges, like things they don’t like. Almost everyone who walks in the door has a return. At the same time, they always buy more, and we sell so many gift certificates during the Christmas season that everyone comes in to use those. So actually, it is a very busy day. “We have six registers that are all up and running. We don’t have anyone new so we’re pretty able to control the lines. “The day after Thanksgiving we do everything in the store 20 percent off. We consider the day after Thanksgiving the start of the Christmas season. But in the spring, right when people are starting to care for their lawns, are the two busiest times of the year for us.”

Has Internet shopping like Amazon cut into your business in the last 10 years?

“No. We have shop online, too. During the Christmas season we have a lot of people who choose to do that, too. I don’t think it has hurt us in any way. We stand pretty well on our own.”

What are the top items that people want to exchange or return?

“Clothes. Get a different size or whatnot. And shoes.” What has been the big seller for you this season? “We’ve just added a line of higher-end clothing. We sell Columbia, Merrill shoes. We stepped up the game on clothes. Our clothing sells very well. We have Izod and Woolrich, so those brands do very well.”

What is the best part of your job? “I really enjoy the cashiers. I think they’re a great group of girls. I give them advice. I’ve been through it all. I’ve been to high school. I’ve been to college. So, I help them out. I like meeting people. Because I’ve worked here so long, I know so many people that shop here. I like to see people I know a lot.”

What are the biggest hurdles being a cashier at Klem’s? “Scheduling conflicts. Making sure we’re fully staffed. It’s especially tough this time of season because four of them could have a Christmas party on the same day. You can’t tell someone they can’t go to their family Christmas party.”

Do you have staff turnover? “With cashiers we don’t have that much turnover. If anything, it’s because they need to go to college.” What is the most challenging part of your job? “When the store is just busy. You’re literally running around all day. It’s not even challenging, as in hard. On busy days it’s just tough to do one thing and knowing you have 17 other things that you have to do right after. It’s not tough, it’s just busy.”

As a cashier or front-end manager have you witnessed shoplifting?

“Yes. But we’ve just added a new security system to the store, so theft has gone down a lot. Cashiers have witnessed it, but we’re always well staffed on our floor, where they normally would be the ones to catch it first.”

Is this the only job you’ve ever known? “No. I’ve been a nanny. I’ve been a waitress, a swimming lesson instructor. Through college, I’ve always had more than one job.”

Compiled by: Correspondent Richard Price

Health care advocates meet on funding drug treatment but face a sobering reality

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Funding for drug treatment a challenge
Moyers addresses advocates in city


WORCESTER — As a teenager, it started with his love of marijuana. By college, he was binge drinking and using heavy drugs. In his 30s, he was a writer for CNN, a family man and a crack cocaine addict. Finally, he went through rehabilitation, came out the other side and is now an advocate to help others.

This is William C. Moyers’ story. Clean since 1993, he is the executive director of public advocacy for the Minneapolis-based Hazelden clinic. Friday morning in a banquet room at Worcester’s Beechwood Hotel, Mr. Moyer stood in a packed room of local health care advocates, medical doctors, researchers and legislators. His story is simple: motivate his fellow alcohol and drug treatment advocates in educating the public that addiction is a treatable disease and to get ready to fight for funding if national health care reform becomes a reality.

But Massachusetts faces a stiff headwind of declining tax revenue, rising unemployment, bloated government deficits, and a perception that substance abuse treatment is a revolving door with little success. This leaves some health care providers with the sobering thought of how to do more with less money in the cookie jar.

“Whenever health care reform comes, it’s going to require all diseases have evidence-based practices and evidence-based outcomes that work,” Mr. Moyers said. “The addiction field has been woefully behind the curve.”

Stigma is also an issue in the battle for funding, said Mr. Moyers, author of The New York Times bestseller “Broken: My Story of Addiction and Recovery” and the son of journalist Bill Moyers. The aura of crime, homelessness and family abuse is a barrier to some taxpayers who see drug use as a choice.

But Mr. Moyers sees it differently. “There are people whose behavior has led to lung cancer. It’s called smoking. We don’t deny smokers access to lung cancer treatment just because they smoked.”

Janice B. Yost, president and CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, believes the public needs to be educated. “Not everyone responds to the same treatment,” she said. “If it were cancer, a doctor might say, ‘We’ll try this and if that doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.’ But substance abuse has the stigma that, after one treatment, you should be cured.”

However, finding a way to pay for these services is a challenge. State Rep. Robert A. DeLeo, D-Revere, said that, as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, he supports state-funded mental health and substance abuse services but is trying to duck from the budget-cut hatchet. “The downward economy has affected us all,” he said to the group, “but as in most cases, it has hit the vulnerable and the sick particularly hard. And the situation, I would dare say, seems to be getting somewhat more challenging.”

In addition, he said, the state spends more than $457 million on services including child and adolescent mental health care, not just drug and alcohol treatment. But with declining tax revenues, the state needs to cut $675 million from the budget. How much will be cut from social services is not yet known. “Next fiscal year,” he said with a warning, “will probably be the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced.”

State Rep. George N. Peterson Jr., R-Grafton, said he believes the funding should be a government priority and he is supportive of raising taxes on some revenue sources, such as alcohol, so long as the money is spent wisely. “The problem I have in most cases is that in other programs we have failed that mission,” he said. When too much money is raised, the surplus is often funneled to something unrelated, he said.

Mr. Moyers said the trick is to successfully win national funding, and with President Obama making health care reform a priority, time might be running short.

What is the alternative if they don’t get what they need from Washington?

“Plan B is to do it on the grass roots, to continue the message of hope and help and healing, to continue to engage policymakers in meaningful reform at the state level,” Mr. Moyers said.