Senate Passes Mental Health ABC Act: Addressing Barriers to Care

(BOSTON – 02/13/2020)  Today, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed the Mental Health ABC Act, comprehensive legislation aimed at reforming the mental health care system in Massachusetts. Senate Bill 2519, An Act Addressing Barriers to Care for Mental Health, serves as the first step toward developing a more integrated system of mental health care delivery to better meet the needs of individuals and families.

“For far too long, mental health has been a forgotten component of our health care system, resulting in a broken system that has continually left patients without the critical care they need,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This bill lays an important foundation for creating a system that is accessible and equitable, and provides the state with better tools to ensure that someone with a mental health condition has the same access to care as someone with physical health needs. I want to sincerely thank Senate President Spilka for recognizing the urgency of this issue and committing to a bold step forward with the passage of this bill. I also want to thank Senator Cyr, Senator Rodrigues and all of the advocates involved in crafting this bill for their thoughtful collaboration and shared commitment to reforming our mental health care system so that it works for everyone.”

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Senate Unveils Mental Health ABC Act: Addressing Barriers to Care

BOSTON – On February 6, the Massachusetts Senate unveiled An Act Addressing Barriers to Care for Mental Health, comprehensive legislation aimed at providing a framework for reforming mental health care in Massachusetts. The Mental Health ABC Act removes barriers to timely quality care, provides the state with more effective tools to enforce existing mental health parity laws, and invests in the mental and behavioral health workforce pipeline. This legislation reflects the Senate’s overall goal of improving mental health care for all – a personal priority for Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) who served as one of the chief architects of the bill.

“For far too long, mental health has been a forgotten component of our healthcare system despite our statutory parity mandate that calls for equitable coverage between medical and surgical treatment and mental health treatment,” said Senator Friedman, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This bill serves as a first step forward in addressing the persisting inequities in our delivery of mental health services that keep patients from accessing the care they need, and will provide a framework for the state to better enforce our mental health parity laws. I want to thank Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, and Senator Cyr for their thoughtful collaboration on this initiative and shared commitment to reforming our mental health care system so it is accessible, affordable, and equitable for all.”

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Friedman Votes on Next Generation Climate Policy, Advocates for Low Income Communities

BOSTON – On January 30, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her Senate colleagues in advancing three pieces of legislation that boldly tackle the contributing factors of climate change, propose one of the most forward-thinking courses of action against global warming in the country, and pave the way for a clean energy future for all of its residents.

“The Senate has shown its commitment to combating climate change with a sense of urgency by passing this next generation climate proposal,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington). “I’m pleased that we took this major step forward to protect our environment, and am particularly proud that this legislation includes an amendment I fought for that would protect low-income families when the state is developing regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our communities. I want to thank Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, and my Lexington counterpart Senator Barrett for taking the lead on this issue and putting Massachusetts on a path toward a clean, green and sustainable future.”

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Letter to the Editor: Sen. Friedman is focusing on right priorities

The following is an excerpt of a Letter to the Editor published in the Lexington Minuteman by Amy Rosenthal, Executive Director of Health Care for All and Lexington resident:

A recent Lexington Minuteman story highlighted the health care accomplishments of state Senator Cindy Friedman. We should feel proud that Massachusetts is a national health care leader – our insurance rate is 97% for adults and 98% for children; our hospitals are international leaders; and we are testing innovative ways to improve the quality of our care. However, we know that having a health insurance card is not a guarantee to affordable services and more needs to be done to address inequities in our health care system. 

That’s why it’s invigorating to see that state leaders like Senator Friedman are willing to focus on key health care priorities. She helped negotiate provisions in our FY20 state budget that have helped bring down the cost of prescription drugs for the state’s MassHealth program, saving the state $6 million in the first few months alone. 

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The time for climate action is now!

I’m excited to announce that the Senate has released a next generation climate policy package designed to advance and double down on our efforts to combat climate change in Massachusetts. The package consists of three pieces of legislation – An Act Setting Next Generation Climate PolicyAn Act to Accelerate the Transition of Cars, Trucks and Buses to Carbon-Free Powerand An Act Relative to Energy Savings Efficiency – that would
bring Massachusetts one step closer toward a cleaner, more sustainable future.

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Massachusetts Senate Passes Breakfast After the Bell Legislation

BOSTON – On January 16, Senator Cindy F. Friedman, D-Arlington, joined her Senate colleagues in unanimously passing legislation to fight childhood hunger and boost participation rates in school breakfast programs in the Commonwealth’s high-poverty schools. The bill, An Act regarding breakfast after the bell, would require all public K-12 schools with 60 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program to offer breakfast after the instructional day begins.

“No child should ever have to go hungry or wonder where their next meal will come from,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman. “When our kids have access to nutritious meals, they do better in school – that’s why I’m proud the Senate passed this bill and has continually prioritized the health and well-being of our children throughout the Commonwealth.”

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Massachusetts Senate Passes the Healthy Youth Act

BOSTON – On January 16, Senator Cindy F. Friedman, D-Arlington, joined her Senate colleagues in passing the Healthy Youth Act. This bill would ensure that Massachusetts schools electing to provide their students with sex education use age-appropriate and medically accurate information that covers a comprehensive range of topics.

“Ensuring that our school districts provide medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education is commonsense,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman. “Particularly in the era of the #MeToo movement, it’s critical that our youth understand the meaning of consent, how to build healthy relationships, the benefits of delaying sex, how to prevent STIs and pregnancy, and LGBTQIA+ health needs. Thank you to the students from my district who came to my office to advocate for this important bill, which will ensure that all youth are well-informed and equipped with the tools they need to lead healthy lives.”

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Massachusetts bail reform commission issues final report

As co-chair of the state’s bail reform commission – created by the landmark criminal justice reform bill passed in 2018 – I collaborated with co-chair Rep. Cronin as well as legislators, judges, probation officers, constitutional officers, and bail experts to evaluate policies and procedures related to the current bail system and to recommend improvements or changes.

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Friedman receives “Outstanding Public Official Award” for work on mental health initiatives

BOSTON – Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) recently received the “Outstanding Public Official Award” from Vinfen, an innovative health and human services organization that provides community-based services for people with disabilities. At its 12th Annual Celebration of Family Partnerships this fall, Vinfen honored the dedicated family members, guardians, advocates, self-advocates, and staff who support the individuals it serves.

“All people, including those with behavioral health challenges or disabilities, should be able to lead full and productive lives – free from prejudice and discrimination – and receive support from their communities,” said Senator Friedman, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “Thank you to Vinfen for recognizing my work, but more importantly, for the work you do each and every day to care for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

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The last update of the year!

As the year comes to a close, I wanted to provide you with an update on this fall’s legislative accomplishments and recount some of the times I spent with you in the 4th Middlesex district!

Throughout the fall, the Legislature worked hard to pass several important bills that were officially signed into law by the Governor – I’m particularly proud that the Children’s Health and Wellness Bill, the Student Opportunity Act, and the Hands-free Driving Bill are officially the law of the Commonwealth! I was also pleased that the Senate passed the PACT Act – an initiative I’m leading on this session – to lower the costs of prescription drugs and increase patient access to medications. We’ve achieved a lot so far, but there is always more work to do.

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