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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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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I support the ROE Act – here’s why.

I have received numerous phone calls and emails from many of you regarding the ROE Act (S.1209), a bill filed by my colleague, Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler. I would like to take this time to outline my support for the bill, clarify what the bill seeks to accomplish, and address some of the concerns and misconceptions regarding the bill.

Please take a moment to read my statement on why I support the ROE Act and if you have not done so already, read the full text of the bill on the Massachusetts Legislature website. In addition, feel free to share my statement with your friends and neighbors in our community. 

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Letter to the Editor: Social workers key to addressing opioid crisis

There is a rising need for social workers in Middlesex County and throughout Massachusetts to help us manage the most pressing public health problem we face today – the opioid crisis.

In 2017, there were 357 opioid-related overdose deaths in Middlesex County, more than any other county in Massachusetts. There is an urgent need to address this crisis – and social workers are an integral part of the solution. 

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NFL reveals its hypocrisy in Josh Gordon case Boston Globe

Kudos to Nestor Ramos (“In Josh Gordon case, a troubled league fails a troubled man,” BostonGlobe.com, Dec. 22) for calling out the disgusting hypocrisy of the NFL. More troubling in the response to Josh Gordon’s struggle with a serious disease, is their complicity in demonizing mental illness vs. treating it like the illness it is.

If Gordon were taking medication for any physical ailment, the league would not blink. They don’t seem to have any trouble addressing the symptoms of physical pain that their players have to live with (drugs are certainly part of that). But their neanderthal and dangerous response to Gordon’s actions not only hurt him but hurt the many who suffer with a devastating and difficult-to-treat condition.

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An update on National Grid and protecting locked out workers A message from Senator Cindy Friedman

Over the last few weeks, I have heard regularly from many of you regarding your concerns with National Grid’s lockout and the impact it has had on over 1,250 Massachusetts workers and their families. I wanted to provide you an update and let you know that I have been in regular contact with National Grid and the United Steel Workers Unions regarding the ongoing contract negotiations. I remain troubled that National Grid has been unable to put forward an agreeable contract, and am frustrated by reports of continuous safety violations on gas lines. As the cold winter months approach, it is especially imperative that the locked out workers be able to return to work.

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Statement in support of climate change initiatives

I have always been supportive of policy initiatives that seek to address climate change and protect our environment. After reading the recent New York Times report outlining the future of our environment and the impact that rising food shortages, wildfires and dying coral reefs will have on our livelihood by the year 2040, it is even more apparent just how serious the threat of climate change is. If we don’t act now, we will put our children and grandchildren in serious danger. We must take real action with a sense of urgency so that we can build a sustainable future for generations to come. The federal government may fail to address, or even acknowledge, this threat to society, but Massachusetts will not. No matter what happens, we will continue to lead on clean energy efficiency and pass commonsense measures that keep our state moving forward. This session, I was proud to join my colleagues in supporting the Clean Energy Future bill that passed the Legislature. The bill will increase the use of renewable energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs in the green economy. As state Senator, I will continue to remain firm in my commitment to creating a cleaner future for all and advocate for legislation that will protect our planet and create a healthier environment for everyone. Our lives depend on it.

Student loan repayment would help strengthen HS workforce Op-Ed by Senator Cindy Friedman

Human service workers provide critical support to nearly one-in-ten Massachusetts residents, yet the industry continues to face enormous difficulties recruiting and retaining staff due to low wages and immense student loan debt.

These workers care for some of the most vulnerable members of our communities – the elderly, disabled and individuals suffering from mental illness and substance use disorder – who require assistance in daily living situations.

Social workers, psychiatrists, therapists, counselors and numerous other professions all fall under the human service worker umbrella. This diverse coalition of professionals is often required to provide the kind of holistic treatment and care needed by many of the most vulnerable members of our communities.

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Treat substance use disorder like disease it is Commonwealth Magazine

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.

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Massachusetts Senate condemns Trump family separation policy

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.

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