As the director of an outpatient psychiatric clinic catering to people who have a genetic illness, I work with families every day who struggle to make the decision to put food on the table versus catering to the needs of their loved ones who are ill. Many of these families are supported by the passage of unpaid FMLA but continue to face hardships because of the intermittent need to take unpaid time off to attend to loved ones who need them.

One example is a woman who was assured her job would be secure however realized quickly that when she needed to accompany her sick loved one to a doctor visit or spend an extra hour or two with them, she was not paid for this time. As time went on, she cancelled many of the doctor visits and needed to rely on Medicaid to cover as much homecare as possible. Her loved one became worse and eventually she needed to contact 911 to bring him to the hospital. Even then, her loved one travel scared and alone to the emergency room and continued to be alone until she finished work.

In the long run, the state wound up paying more for the patient to be transferred to the hospital and spend time as an inpatient until he was stable enough to return home. The woman felt guilty about not being available to prevent the hospitalization but knew her bills were piling up and that she would have no way to catch up paying these in the future if she took time off.

Looking back, paid family leave would have allowed her the few hours each month to bring her loved one to his check ups. In addition, if he needed extra help once in a while for a few hours in the morning before she left for work, she would be able to provide the loving care he needed.

It is imperative that the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act bill is passed for the patients and families of Connecticut. These patients and family members work so hard to balance the need to make ends meet and show loyalty to the companies they work for. Allowing for paid leave will provide them with the relief they need to care for themselves and family members who rely on them.

Bonnie L. Hennig, CT