Federal ruling could jumpstart MA safe drug consumption sites

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that supervised consumption sites, where individuals could use pre-acquired drugs under medical watch without facing arrest, would not violate a section of the Controlled Substances Act as government prosecutors alleged. Sen. Cindy Friedman, who served on a commission that this spring recommended the state pilot one or more sites, said the ruling ‘gives us momentum in Massachusetts to move our harm-reduction site pilot forward.’

“It is distressing that U.S. Attorney Lelling would try to create a barrier to desperately needed harm-reduction care for those suffering from a terrible illness,” Friedman said in a statement. “Conflating harm reduction sites with crack houses is ridiculous and dangerous. Establishing pilot sites is a logical, thoughtful, and humane action we must continue to push for in Massachusetts to reduce harm and save lives.”

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Friedman advocates for better treatment for patients in recovery

On September 26, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) testified before the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery on legislation she filed that would prohibit the use of correctional facilities for men who have been civilly committed under Section 35, a release from her office states. 

“Individuals struggling with substance use disorder are not criminals – they are suffering from a disease that must be treated, not punished,” said Friedman. “A jail cell is no place for someone trying to recover from and manage their illness. The passage of this bill is a moral, necessary and commonsense step in the right direction toward ending the criminalization of substance use disorder.”

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New Minuteman Tech officially completed

The student union of the new Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School was nearing capacity. The space, a large open area at the heart of the building, was filled with local politicians, school officials, media members, and students. They occupied every corner, filled in each gap, and pressed themselves up against two levels of balconies. Light streamed in from the room’s massive windows, positioned over the adjoining outdoor courtyard, to illuminate a scene years in the making: the official ribbon cutting and opening of the new school building.

After multiple attempts, Minuteman School Building Committee chairman Ford Spalding succeeded in quieting the room. Spalding’s remarks were followed by many more, including rousing speeches from State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, Sen. Cindy Friedman, and Superintendent Ed Bouquillon. Lexington state Rep. Michelle Ciccolo presented a congratulatory citation.

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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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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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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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Some say Sheriff Nick Cocchi’s approach to addiction treatment is among the best in Massachusetts — but some say jail is the wrong place for recovery

There is growing consensus among addiction specialists that substance use disorder is an illness, not a crime — and that treatment should be delivered in a health facility, not a jail. In 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill ending the practice of treating civilly committed women in prisons. The women were moved to secure treatment facilities run through the departments of public health and mental health. A bill pending in the Legislature would do the same for men.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, said someone who is ill does not belong in a correctional facility. “Section 35 is not a crime,” Friedman said. “Correctional facilities have very different reasons for existing. They have very different missions. People who are Section 35 are people who are ill, and they don’t belong in prison.”

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