Legislature Passes Distracted Driving Bill

BOSTON – On November 20, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) along with her colleagues in the House and Senate, voted to enact legislation to ban motorists from using hand-held electronic devices in vehicles unless they are in hands-free mode.

“The safety of our residents is paramount,” said Senator Friedman. “This long overdue bill will protect our drivers and pedestrians as well as reduce the rate of tragic accidents caused by distracted driving on our roads. I’m proud the Legislature passed this commonsense bill, and am grateful that our busy roads and highways in the 4th Middlesex will become safer for everyone as a result.”

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Legislature Passes Bill to Promote Children’s Health and Wellness

BOSTON – This week, the Massachusetts Legislature passed An Act Relative to Children’s Health and Wellness to increase access to vital behavioral health services for children in the Commonwealth. The conference committee appointed to reconcile the different language in the Senate and House bills filed compromise language on Monday afternoon.

“There are several barriers to access for children in the Commonwealth who are in need of behavioral health services, and this legislation takes several steps to address them,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “I’m especially proud that this comprehensive bill requires provider network directories to be more transparent and include accurate, up-to-date information to help connect children with the mental health providers that they need. I want to acknowledge Senate President Spilka for putting mental health initiatives at the forefront of our legislative agenda this session as well as sincerely thank Rep. Benson and all of the conferees for their hard work on this issue and their commitment to improving children’s behavioral health services in our state.”

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Senate Passes Pharmaceutical Access, Costs and Transparency (PACT) Act

BOSTON – Today, the Massachusetts Senate passed An Act relative to Pharmaceutical Access, Costs and Transparency (PACT Act), comprehensive pharmaceutical cost control legislation aimed at addressing the high and rapidly increasing costs of prescription drugs.  By connecting the need for greater drug price transparency with policies to improve oversight over the pharmaceutical industry, the legislation will put Massachusetts at the forefront of the state’s efforts to tackle increasing drug costs. It will also reduce drug costs to patients and lower health care costs overall.

“This bill will bring us one step closer toward addressing rising costs within our healthcare system that continually impact patients’ ability to access the care they need,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “By reining in prescription drug costs and increasing transparency and oversight within the pharmaceutical industry, we can drive down costs and improve patient outcomes. I want to thank Senate President Spilka and Chair Rodrigues for their hard work and collaboration throughout this process. I look forward to advocating for this important initiative throughout the remainder of this session.”

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Massachusetts Senate zeroes in on drug costs

Massachusetts Senate leaders introduced their entry into the debate last week, teeing up the Pharmaceutical Access, Cost and Transparency Act for floor debate Thursday.

The legislation seeks to broaden the powers of the commission to look at any drugs costing $50,000 a year or more or any “drug whose cost exceeds an HPC value for that drug.” “You will see a public process around cost and proposed value,” said Senator Cindy Friedman, cochair of the Health Care Financing Committee.

What matters on Main Street is that no one should have to cross our northern border to buy life-saving drugs. That no one should try to whip up a batch of insulin in the basement. That consumers know that the drugs they and their insurers are paying for will be assessed for both cost and value.

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Senate Unveils Pharmaceutical Access, Cost and Transparency (PACT) Act

BOSTON – Today, the Massachusetts Senate unveiled An Act relative to Pharmaceutical Access, Cost and Transparency (PACT Act), comprehensive pharmaceutical cost control legislation aimed at addressing the high and rapidly increasing costs of prescription drugs.  By connecting the need for greater drug price transparency with policies to improve oversight over the pharmaceutical industry, the legislation will put Massachusetts at the forefront of state’s efforts to tackle increasing drug costs. It will also reduce drug costs to patients and lower health care costs overall.

“Our goal for health care is to create a system that delivers affordable, high quality and accessible health care to all of our residents,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “We have made significant progress moving the Commonwealth toward this goal, but there is a lot more work that needs to be done. This bill serves as the next step in achieving this goal by providing immediate relief for certain high cost drugs, improving patient access to medications, and enhancing transparency and oversight within the pharmaceutical industry. If we are to reduce the cost of health care overall, we must take meaningful action to reduce the costs of drugs. This bill is the start of that effort.”

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Sen. Friedman and constituent Sameer Sabir testify on bill to promote public safety, help families cope with child deaths

BOSTON – On October 22, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) testified before the Joint Committee on Public Health alongside her constituent Sameer Sabir of Arlington, parent advocate Deborah Eappen, and Dr. Robert Sege in favor of legislation that would promote public safety and certainty related to child deaths. Friedman filed the bill on behalf of Mr. Sabir after hearing about the tragic death of his young child and the strain it caused his family.

“Pediatric deaths are different and more complex than adult deaths, and should be reviewed by a medical examiner with considerable experience,” Friedman explained. “Ensuring that the Chief Medical Examiner determines the cause of death will create a more transparent process and bring a sense of certainty and solace to grieving families experiencing an unimaginable loss. This is a commonsense step we must take to help parents like Mr. Sabir cope with the loss of their child, and I look forward to advocating for this important initiative throughout this session.”

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Restoration Center Commission leaders advocate for funds to support jail-diversion programs

BOSTON – On October 22, State Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D–Arlington), Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian, and Dr. Danna Mauch testified before the Joint Committee on Revenue in favor of legislation that would create a permanent fund to help divert individuals with a mental illness or substance use disorder away from the criminal justice system and into appropriate treatment. 

“The state has made progress over the last few years to divert individuals with behavioral health conditions away from the criminal justice system and into treatment centers,” said Sen. Friedman (D-Arlington), lead sponsor of the bill. “This trust fund would allow the Commonwealth to continue this effort by supporting effective jail diversion strategies that will bring us one step closer to ending the criminalization of people suffering from an illness. I’m grateful for Sheriff Koutoujian and Danna Mauch for their collaboration and support of this initiative, and I hope it crosses the finish line this session.”

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Friedman Joins Senate Colleagues In Passing 2019 Closeout Budget

BOSTON, MA – On October 24, Senator Cindy Friedman joined her Senate colleagues in passing a $779.8 million closeout supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2019 today, after adding $8.9 million during floor debate. It also includes a transfer of $356 million to the state’s stabilization fund, thereby continuing to build the Commonwealth’s Rainy Day Fund and placing the state on firmer financial footing. At approximately $3.2 billion, the fund would reach its highest level to date.

“This supplemental budget makes necessary investments in education, infrastructure, and strategies to address the negative effects of climate change in our communities,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I want to thank Senate President Spilka and Chairman Rodrigues for a thoughtful, collaborative process that produced a fiscally responsible budget that honors our commitments to the residents of the Commonwealth.”

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Friedman advocates for treatment, not imprisonment

BOSTON – On October 22, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) testified before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary on legislation she filed that would end the court’s practice of incarcerating a defendant with a substance use disorder whose only infraction during pretrial release or while on probation is a drug relapse. This legislation is part of Friedman’s ongoing effort to address the opioid crisis, end the criminalization of substance use disorder, and decrease recidivism and unnecessary incarceration in the Commonwealth.

“It is both unsafe and unjust to require defendants suffering from substance use disorder to remain relapse-free or else face jail,” said Friedman, a member of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. “It is also contrary to all of the scientific research, which tells us that relapses are part of recovery. The passage of this bill is essential step in helping individuals undergo the natural process of recovery and get the treatment they need without the fear of being taken back to a jail cell during pretrial or probation.”

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A glance back at recent accomplishments – and our plan moving forward

I hope you are well and are enjoying the fall season! As we enter the final three months of 2019, I want to give you an update on all that I’ve been working on at the State House, provide a brief overview on the major legislation we have passed in the Senate so far, and glance back on some great times I’ve had in the district.

As always, hearing from you about the issues you care most about helps inform my day-to-day work in the Senate. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office by contacting me via the contact form on my website, by phone at (617) 722-1432, by email at Cindy.Friedman@masenate.gov, or by mail at Senator Cindy Friedman, State House, Room 413-D, Boston, MA 02133. 

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