Sheriffs launch treatment pilot to aid opiate-afflicted in prisons

Members of the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association has launched what it calls a landmark initiative providing expanded medication-assisted treatment options to those with opioid-use disorder at correctional facilities in seven counties.

“While we need to continue our efforts to end the criminalization of substance use disorder and mental illness, we must do everything we can to meet the needs of those who are currently incarcerated,” said Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), who helped champion the 2018 comprehensive opioid treatment bill that established the pilot.  “The creation of this program is an important and ground-breaking step toward addressing substance use disorder within corrections so that people can get the medication they need and have the opportunity to recover. I want to thank my Senate colleagues, the Governor, the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association, and all of the stakeholders involved for their collaboration and commitment to making this program a reality.”

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Hundreds turn out for screening of documentary on former hockey player Kevin Stevens

ARLINGTON — A standing room only crowd packed the Regent Theatre in Arlington for a panel on substance abuse and the premiere screening of the short documentary “Shattered” about the life of former professional hockey player Kevin Stevens.

The panelists included Stevens, two-time Stanley Cup champion and recovering addict, state Senator Cindy Friedman of Arlington, Dr. Michael Hamrock, addiction specialist from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, and Becky Savage, a self-professed hockey mom and educator, who lost her two hockey sons to OxyContin overdose at a graduation party from South Bend, Indiana.

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BCAT TV News in Depth: the ROE Act and Abortion Rights in Massachusetts

BNEWS Director Rich Hosford speaks to guests on both sides of the abortion issue about the ROE Act making its way through the Massachusetts Legislature that would re-affirm the rights laid out in Roe V. Wade and expand access to abortion by eliminating the need for parental consent for minors and allowing abortions after 24 weeks in certain circumstances.

Column: Unequal Pay for Equal Work

For the past several years, a frequent topic of discussion by employers in our state has centered around the workforce crisis. From hospitality to health care, nearly all sectors are facing a shortage of workers, particularly for entry-level positions. Sadly, what’s become a crisis for many private businesses has become a catastrophe for the community-based human services sector, which is experiencing vacancies at alarmingly high rates.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope. Two bills, House 138, sponsored by state Rep. Kay Khan, and Senate 1077, sponsored by state Sen. Cindy Friedman, are being discussed on Beacon Hill. Senate 1077 addresses fair pay for comparable work.

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Op-Ed: Safe injection sites are another tool on the path to recovery

When we were first introduced to the idea of safe injection facilities, we were not immediately on board. In fact, we felt uneasy about it, but vowed to keep an open mind.

After serving on the state’s harm-reduction commission, listening to testimony, studying the effectiveness of safe injection facilities in other countries, visiting clinics in the Boston area, and learning from experts, our perspective changed. The idea of such sites is uncomfortable to many, but it’s not about our comfort level. It’s about keeping people alive long enough to get them into treatment.

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Giving back to the district in the FY20 state budget

As vice chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, I recently had the pleasure of serving on the six-member conference committee to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) state budget. The committee reached consensus last week on a compromise spending plan for the new fiscal year that began on July 1, and it was approved by both legislative chambers on July 22. Having passed the House and Senate, the legislation now moves to the Governor’s desk for his review. He has 10 days to review the budget and issue any vetoes.

This $43.1 billion budget makes substantial investments in education, physical and behavioral health care, housing, and local aid, and it includes several key investments to support programs and services for our district and the Commonwealth.

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Friedman votes on bills to promote health care access, support unions, and end child marriage

BOSTON – Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) recently joined her colleagues in voting on legislation that would increase access to mental health care for patients in Massachusetts and bring the state one step closer toward mental health parity. She also voted in favor of legislation that would end child marriage in the Commonwealth and voted against an amendment offered by the Governor on a bill that protects a public unions’ ability to effectively represent all workers in labor agreements.

“Taking action to eliminate ghost networks in Massachusetts is long overdue. It’s extremely frustrating and shameful that individuals seeking mental health care in Massachusetts are often unable to find accurate, reliable information about available doctors through their insurance carrier,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “I applaud the collaborative effort among elected officials, healthcare providers, patient advocates and insurers in getting this done so that we can ensure patients get the care they need in an efficient and timely manner.”

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Lexington senator says supervised injection center can’t wait

State Sen. Cindy Friedman was among the lawmakers who spent months studying ways to reduce the death toll from opioid overdoses. And she did not parse words when presenting findings Wednesday: the state has an “obligation” to pilot a supervised injection site, as a commission recommended.

“I know that the idea of safe consumption sites is uncomfortable to many, but if they are proven to save lives, then we have an obligation to at least give them a try,” Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, a member of the Harm Reduction Commission, told a committee July 24. “Lives are at stake and we cannot wait any longer.”

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Supervised drug use proponents trudge onward

The state commission that Secretary of Health and Human Services, Marylou Sudders, led ultimately found supervised drug consumption sites help prevent overdose deaths and stop the spread of disease, recommending a pilot program for one or more sites as long as they “receive local approval and include a rigorous evaluation of the outcomes for individuals and impact on the surrounding area and municipality.”

“There is the whole legal issue, OK. But parallel to that it’s all of the work you have to do to set up a pilot so that it is successful,” said Friedman, who said that would mean working with local stakeholders. “We still have to do that work. And we’re not going to shove this down anybody’s throat. No legislation’s going to say, ‘You have to open a safe consumption site.”

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Lawmakers largely followed Baker’s lead to reach compromise to curb drug costs

Legislators voted in favor of new policies to curb the cost of prescription drugs in the state Medicaid program, putting their stamp on a plan initially laid out by Governor Charlie Baker in January. Consumer advocates applauded the compromise, while drug company lobbyists indicated they could live with it.

The drug pricing rules were among the most controversial pieces of the state budget plan. Senator Cindy Friedman, one of six lawmakers who negotiated the budget deal, said the compromise is close to what Baker first proposed. “I do suspect the governor will like it,” she said. “We truly believe this is going to save money and add some transparency so we understand better why drugs cost what they do,” Friedman added.”

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