MASSACHUSETTS CONTINUES TO LOOK for new answers to the opioid crisis. Despite changes to state law to require insurance coverage for inpatient substance use disorder treatment, despite the increased availability of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone (Narcan), and despite significant investments in substance use prevention programs in our communities, this disease continues to claim lives and devastate families and entire neighborhoods.
Yes, a disease – I use that word intentionally. Substance use disorder arises in individuals exposed to opioids who have a genetic predisposition, history of trauma, or both. The shameless peddling of opioids by the pharmaceutical industry has resulted in widespread exposure to opioids. In individuals with substance use disorder, brain chemistry changes in ways that reinforce the disease.
Like many of you, I’ve been heartbroken and sickened by the news lately. Immigrant families are being torn apart, children are being forced into detention sites that resemble prison cells, and the federal government is showing no mercy. Our American values are under threat by a “leader” in the White House who refuses to show an ounce of decency and compassion toward the most vulnerable.
Any parent understands that separating children from their families is cruel and inhumane. Furthermore, refusing to provide safety to someone seeking asylum from violence in their country of origin is unconscionable. We have a serious, moral crisis on our hands, and we have to stand up and do something about it.
In response, I recently joined my colleagues in co-signing a letter to President Trump, condemning his actions and demanding that he take swift action to reunite every family that has been separated.
Like many of you, I have been continually disheartened by the never-ending cycle of gun violence across our country and the lack of action by our leaders in Congress to address this crisis. I don’t use the term “crisis” lightly. I use it purposefully because the rate of gun violence in this country has truly reached a crisis-level:
- Preschool children were killed by guns in greater numbers than police officers in the line of duty from 1999 through 2013 (with the exception of 2004);
- There have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting;
- 96 people die from gun violence every single day, 7 of which are children and teens;
- 35,141 people die from gun violence every year, 2,737 of which are children and teens; and
- 1 out of 3 homes with kids have guns and nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with an unlocked, loaded gun.
These statistics are disturbing. We cannot continue to sit back and do nothing and wait for the next tragedy to occur.
As many of you know, last week the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) announced that the number of healthcare carriers available to active and retired GIC members would be reduced significantly. As of July 1, 2018, members and their families will no longer be able to get healthcare through Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Tufts Health Plan (except for Medicare retirees) and Fallon Health, a drastic change that will impact over 200,000 hard-working employees, retirees, and their dependents throughout the Commonwealth.
I’ve already begun to hear from concerned families in my district who fear that they will be forced on to a new plan that may or may not allow them to keep their current doctors or continue the course of treatment that they are currently on. In addition, the decision will have a real impact on those insurers – all of whom are Massachusetts companies – and their employees who have been dropped as a result of this abrupt decision that took everyone by surprise.
Late last year, voters received mailers from the Mass Fiscal Alliance directly attacking the Safe Communities Act (S.1305). These mailers were misleading, inaccurate, and solely designed to provoke backlash against the Safe Communities Act and the Commonwealth’s undocumented immigrant population.
In light of these deceitful and deeply disturbing mailers, I felt the need to clear up any confusion with regards to the intent of and provisions included in the Safe Communities Act. First and foremost, nothing in the Act offers protection or immunity to criminals. This is perhaps the biggest misconception about the bill and cannot be overstated. Instead of providing “sanctuary” to criminals as many have wrongfully argued, the bill instead explicitly permits police to arrest or detain a person in the course of a criminal investigation or prosecution when supported by probable cause that the person has committed a crime.
As we observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today, we remember and honor an individual who was crucial in the fight to advance civil rights in our nation. Today is also a day to recognize the progress we’ve made since the Civil Rights Era, but also to realize the work we must continue to do to create a more inclusive society for everyone.
Dr. King, once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” We talk about standing up for others all the time, but are we always taking action?
We all have big ideas, dreams, and intentions, but what are we doing in our daily lives to see them through? I encourage you to challenge yourself in 2018, step outside of your comfort zone, and make a conscious effort to make a difference in the lives of your neighbors. I encourage you to step up and fight back – to organize with members of your communities, join resist movements, and get involved. Don’t be a bystander.
What are you going to do to stand up for others, especially those most vulnerable in our society? As we recognize Dr. King today, let us be reminded that there is always something that we can do to make our society a little bit better and more equal for people of all races, genders, and religious ideals every single day.
On Thursday, the Senate passed the HEALTH Act (S.2202) by a vote of 33-6. The bill focuses on both short and long term goals to lower costs, improve outcomes, and expand access to care.
Key elements of the legislation include:
- More effective care delivery, including increased access to telemedicine and mobile integrated health services.
- Strategies for reducing avoidable hospital readmissions and unnecessary emergency department use, including measures to improve access to behavioral health services.
- Greater provider versatility, including expanded scope of practice for many practitioners including dental therapists, optometrists, podiatrists, and advanced practice nurses.
- Greater oversight and transparency in drug costs. Opportunity for lower costs through bulk purchasing arrangements, including a multistate drug purchasing consortium.
I am in strong support of the bail reform provisions included in the Senate’s comprehensive criminal justice bill, S.2185 – An Act relative to criminal justice reform.
Under our current cash-based bail system, we incarcerate too many individuals before their trial – not because they are likely to flee or pose a danger to society, but because they are poor and unable to afford their cash bail. A person’s freedom should never be based on their ability to pay.
The Supreme Judicial Court’s (SJC) recent decision in the Brangan case, which states that a court may not impose excessive cash bail that the court knows a person is unable to pay without a formal written or oral finding, is a significant step in the right direction. However, this decision alone does not address the full range of problems created by the Commonwealth’s reliance on a cash-based bail system.
Statement of EMILY’s List Endorsing Cindy Friedman for State Senator in the 4th Middlesex District
Cindy Friedman is a dedicated public servant who will be ready to lead on the issues of criminal justice and mental health the moment she steps back into the Massachusetts Statehouse as Senator Friedman.
Behind the scenes, she has been a tireless advocate for the women and families of Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, Woburn and Lexington, and EMILY’s List is excited to support Cindy Friedman as she continues to fight for them as state senator.
– Geri Prado EMILY’s List senior director of state and local campaigns