Legislators seek to bar judges from sending drug users who relapse to jail

Last summer, the state’s highest court ruled that judges could continue to order jail time for defendants who violate probation by using drugs, dismaying public health advocates and addiction specialists who had hoped to revolutionize the way the criminal justice system treats people with substance use disorders.

Now, they are asking the Legislature to do what the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court would not: Prevent courts from incarcerating defendants who are in treatment and fail a mandatory drug test while on probation.

“Given what we know about substance use disorder and how relapse is very often part of the trajectory of treatment, the thought of someone going to jail for failing a drug test just felt very egregious to me,” said state Senator Cindy F. Friedman, an Arlington Democrat who sponsored the legislation.

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Senate Passes Fiscal Year 2019 Supplemental Budget

BOSTON – On March 7, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in passing a supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19), which includes $143.9 million in spending to address deficiencies, as well as implement policy and spending items that are time-sensitive. The proposal is $21.4 million less than what Governor Baker originally proposed in January.

“This supplemental budget takes vital steps to provide important protections for our children and families, low-income residents, and sexual assault survivors,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I want to thank Chairman Rodrigues for pushing this supplemental budget forward in a fiscally responsible manner while upholding our values in the Senate to ensure that every family has equitable access to critical benefits and resources.”

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Friedman calls on MBTA to rescind fare hike proposal

BOSTON – Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) recently submitted a letter opposing the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board’s recent proposal to implement a 6.3 percent fare hike for T and commuter rail passengers.

“This is unacceptable for the roughly half a million people who need to travel to and from the greater Boston area each day to get to their jobs,” Friedman explained. “We should focus our efforts on fixing the T and commuter rail system so that it is more appealing to riders, rather than implementing unnecessary fare hikes that will discourage ridership further.”

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Mass. Panel Recommends One Or More Supervised Consumption Sites To Reduce Opioid OD Deaths

Massachusetts should test the use of clinics where drug users can shoot up or inhale drugs, and be revived by medical staff if needed, because such clinics save lives. That’s the gist of a recommendation to state lawmakers that will be included in a report due later this week.

State Sen. Cindy Friedman said many people aren’t convinced that bringing illegal drug activity into a medical clinic is a legitimate way to fight drug use. Friedman supports the idea but said candidly that she still wrestles with it herself.

“I’m not necessarily comfortable with safe consumption sites, it doesn’t exactly fit in with my repertoire,”Friedman said after the commission meeting where she proposed the final language for the recommendation. “It isn’t about me. It’s about what is going to work to address this emergency.”

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Friedman named chair of Health Care Financing and vice chair of Senate Ways and Means Committees

BOSTON – Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) was named Senate co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing by Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland) for the 2019-2020 legislative session which began this January.

“I’m humbled and honored to have the opportunity to serve on these important committees,” said Friedman. “I am incredibly grateful to Senate President Karen Spilka for placing her trust in me with these duties and am excited to get to work. I look forward to a productive, impactful and successful legislative session with my colleagues as we continue to fight for key policy initiatives on behalf of our constituents.”

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A single comment made Mayor Walsh rethink supervised injection sites

Boston Globe

Now a member of the state’s Harm Reduction Commission, charged with recommending new ways to tackle addiction and the opioid crisis, [Marty] Walsh recently traveled to Montreal and Toronto in January with Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern and toured injection sites in both cities. He came back largely convinced that operating supervised injection sites responsibly and without neighborhood chaos was at least possible, and worth a very close look for Boston.

“Having sat with him on the committee, I’ve experienced an opening, a willingness, to engage in the conversation. And a real effort to understand something that is foreign to a lot of people,” said Cindy Friedman, a state senator from Arlington who serves with Walsh on the Harm Reduction Commission. “He opened himself up…That’s what it means to take this epidemic seriously.”

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Mass. lawmakers want to extend antidiscrimination laws to venture capitalists

Boston Globe

Massachusetts law prohibits workplace harassment and discrimination. But there’s a loophole: Those laws generally don’t apply to perpetrators who are investors, or potential investors, in a company.

That can be a problem for workers in a significant swath of Boston’s booming economy. In technology, biotech, and other fields seeded by venture capital and private equity, outside investors hold extraordinary power over the careers of entrepreneurs, who have little recourse if they’re mistreated.

Now, a group of lawmakers on Beacon Hill is pushing legislation that would subject investors to the same civil discrimination and harassment laws that apply to employers. The bill’s lead sponsor, State Senator Cindy F. Friedman, an Arlington Democrat, noted that the vast majority of venture capital in the United States now goes to white, male founders.

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Harassment in venture-capital industry targeted

BOSTON — A state senator is looking to amend the laws protecting against discrimination and harassment in the workplace to ensure they cover entrepreneurs seeking funds to start a business. 

The #metoo movement and other instances of women sharing stories of their experiences have prompted a new focus on sexual harassment in industries from Hollywood to restaurants to politics and pushed many workplaces, including the state Legislature, to revisit their policies on reporting and preventing harassment. 

Friedman, an Arlington Democrat, said she spoke with constituents who are active in the venture capital community and have experienced harassment. She decided to tackle the issue, filing a bill to broaden the state law prohibiting harassment and discrimination against employees.

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New bill could prevent jail time for relapse in Massachusetts

bill before the Massachusetts Legislature could prevent people with substance use disorder from being sent to jail only for relapsing. If the bill is enacted, people diagnosed with substance use disorder who are on probation or are pretrial would be diverted to treatment and prohibited from being drug-tested.

Massachusetts Senator Cindy Friedman, who is a co-sponsor of the bill and chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery, said drug-free court orders unfairly punish people for a normal condition of substance use disorder that is bound to appear on the path to recovery: relapse.

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