Mass. Senate seeks mental health reform, starting with FY20 budget

Legislative leaders are pushing for the allocation of $10 million to a new trust fund that would be used for a public awareness campaign and loan forgiveness program for mental health professionals. The proposal is the start of what senators say will be wide-ranging effort in reshaping how mental health care is accessed, treated and understood throughout the state.

Sen. Cindy Friedman, the chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, said the newest loan program is trying to solve job shortages driven by low reimbursement to certain providers.

“Historically the rates for behavioral health providers are significantly lower than they are for most medical/surgical,” said Friedman, an Arlington Democrat. “This is causing a huge issue with workforce, and getting people to actually work in this field. They can’t afford to work in it. Either the rates are so low and the administrative burden is so high they stop taking insurance, or they leave the field altogether.”

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Arlington shows solidarity with Jewish community following Chabad fires

Members of the Arlington community packed Town Hall early Monday evening to express solidarity with a local Jewish family, who had their Lake Street home set on fire twice in the last week.

Speakers included Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Acting Chief of Police Julie Flaherty, Robert Treston of the Anti-Defmation League and State Senator Cindy Friedman.

“Each day people fight harder and harder to ensure that everyone in our community feels welcome,” Friedman said. “In trying times such as these we must stick together and support one another. We have to continue to demonstrate that we are a welcoming and inclusive community. Despite all the bad things going on in the world right now, I am continuously encouraged by the individuals in our community that consistently display what Arlington is about.”

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We must protect the protectors

When police officers lay it all on the line and are severely injured while protecting the people of the commonwealth, we owe it to them to come to their aid with the same urgency they showed in coming to ours.

In 2011, Woburn Police Officer Robert DiNapoli was shot six times during a botched jewelry store robbery. But, as the Herald’s Mary Markos reported, though DeNapoli got the medical attention that was needed to keep him alive, he received no such aid in the process of collecting the benefits he and his family would need to survive afterwards.

DeNapoli and Oliveira went on to co-found the Violently Injured Police Officers organization, which provides support for law enforcement officers who have sustained serious, lasting injuries in the line of duty. They are now pushing a piece of legislation filed by state Sen. Cindy Friedman that would give severely injured police officers 100 percent of their regular pay until they reach retirement age and then 80 percent of their pension.

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Bill would aid severely injured officers in painful benefits battle

Being shot point-blank six times wasn’t as painful as trying to get a payment package from the city for a former Somerville police and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent, who was forced to retire because of his line-of-duty injuries.

DeNapoli and Oliveira, co-founders of the Violently Injured Police Officers organization, are pushing for a piece of legislation filed by Sen. Cindy Friedman. The bill would give severely injured police officers 100% of their regular pay until they reach retirement age and then 80% of their pension.

“It’s really unfair,” Friedman said. “If they are no longer able to do that job because, in the process of doing what we expect them to do they get so critically injured that they can’t do that job anymore, then I think it’s fair for us to say, “Okay, we need to step in here.”

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Amid Growing Debate About Supervised Drug Consumption Sites, Mass. Poll Finds Narrow Support

Exactly half of Massachusetts residents support the idea of opening supervised consumption sites in the state. A WBUR poll found 43% oppose such clinics, where drug use is monitored to prevent or reverse an overdose. And 8% of 660 adults (topline resultscrosstabs) declined to respond or were undecided.

In Massachusetts, state Sen. Cindy Friedman of Arlington and several colleagues are drafting legislation based on the commission recommendation to create one or more supervised consumption pilots. “We’ve got to try everything we can to try to help these people stay alive and get treatment,” Friedman says. “We should be seeing if it will work here.”

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57% Of Mass. Adults Know Someone Struggling With Opioid Addiction, WBUR Poll Shows

A new WBUR poll shows that the opioid epidemic is hitting more and more Massachusetts residents close to home. The survey also suggests that most state residents aren’t on board with a controversial law that allows the state to use jails and prisons to involuntarily commit some men to addiction treatment.

A state commission set up last year to review the law — called Section 35 — is expected to deliver a preliminary report next week. Among the members of that commission is Democratic state Sen. Cindy Friedman, who says jails are not the right place to treat people struggling with addiction.

“I understand that, in some cases, we need to just get people into a safe place,” she said. “But it’s all treatment-focused; it’s all about getting people healthy and in treatment. And I firmly believe that can’t happen in an environment where the structure is about corrections and punishment.”

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Friedman advocates for legislation to increase political participation

BOSTON – On May 15, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) testified before the Joint Committee on Election Laws in support of legislation she filed that would remove barriers to political contributions by workers through a system of universal voluntary payroll deduction.

“While many residents across Massachusetts actively volunteer their time and energy for political and non-profit organizations, some of these residents face substantial obstacles to participating fully in the political life of their communities simply because they lack a credit card or a checking account,” said Senator Friedman. “Through this voluntary payroll deduction mechanism, low-income residents will have the opportunity to more fully engage in the political process and help shape the policies that affect their lives and communities.”

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Lawmakers stand with advocates, call for increased access to continuous care for kids with medically complex needs

BOSTON – On May 14, Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington), Woburn resident Angela Ortiz, Representative Rich Haggerty (D-Woburn), Representative Sean Garballey (D-Arlington), and Kris Newman of the Mass Developmental Disabilities Council testified at the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing public hearing in support of S.686, An Act to protect medically fragile kids.

“When over half of nurses leave homecare because the reimbursement is so low, children who need this help to survive suffer needlessly. At the same time, the state ends up spending far more dollars in expensive critical hospital or long-term care,” said Senator Friedman, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “The passage of this bill would be a step in the right direction toward helping parents get their child access to high quality, consistent nursing care that they need.”

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Friedman demands action on wage theft legislation

BOSTON – On May 14, Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) testified before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development in support of S.1066, An Act to prevent wage theft, promote employer accountability, and enhance public enforcement, sponsored by Senator Sal N. DiDomenico (D-Cambridge).

“Thousands of workers are stripped of their hard-earned wages every year in Massachusetts,” said Senator Friedman, a member of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “This illegal practice has continually impacted our workers, their families, and our communities, and it’s time for it to end. This important bill takes necessary steps to impose worker protections to prevent wage theft and hold employers accountable, ensuring that every worker receives the pay they are entitled to.”

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Health care chairs vow action on price variation

THE CO-CHAIRS OF THE Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Care Financing may be new to their posts, but both seem to grasp the urgency of tackling big issues facing the state’s health care sector and both sound optimistic about solutions to some thorny problems emerging in the current session on Beacon Hill.

“This is a very, very, very big issue, and it is not something that we’re going to be able to skirt if we really are going to address health care costs,” said Friedman. She said there’s a need to address issues “at both ends of that spectrum” — dealing both with the much higher costs charged by big teaching hospitals while also making sure community hospitals aren’t bringing inefficiency to the overall system by trying to add costly services already provided elsewhere.

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