Friedman Helps Senate Unveil Mental Health ABC Act 2.0: Addressing Barriers to Care

BOSTON (11/09/2021) – Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) helped the Massachusetts Senate unveil the Mental Health ABC Act 2.0: Addressing Barriers to Care (ABC) (S2572), comprehensive legislation to continue the process of reforming the way mental health care is delivered in Massachusetts, with the goal of ensuring that people get the mental health care they need when they need it. This legislation comes at a time when the Massachusetts State Senate is making landmark investments in mental and behavioral health, including $400 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to transform the behavioral health sector, with $122 million dedicated to recruiting and retaining nearly 2,000 behavioral professionals.

The Mental Health ABC Act 2.0 is driven by the recognition that mental health is as important as physical health for every resident of the Commonwealth and should be treated as such. The bill proposes a wide variety of reforms to ensure equitable access to mental health care and remove barriers to care by supporting the behavioral health workforce.

“For far too long, mental health has been a forgotten component of our healthcare system, and we must address the persisting inequities—made painfully clear in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic—in our delivery of mental health care,” said Senator Friedman, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This bill builds on the work the Senate has done over the last several years to improve our mental health system and takes a comprehensive approach to tackle our most pressing issues, such as expanding services to all corners of the Commonwealth, enforcing existing parity laws, and addressing the boarding crisis in our Emergency Departments that is impacting too many of our children and families. I want to sincerely thank Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, and Senator Cyr for their thoughtful collaboration on this legislation and for continuing to prioritize reforming our mental health care system this session so it is accessible, affordable, and equitable for all.”

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Senate Ways and Means Releases American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Spending Bill

BOSTON (11/03/2021) – Today, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means announced a $3.66 billion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) spending bill to address COVID-19 recovery needs and build an equitable future for the Commonwealth. The Senate Ways and Means ARPA bill reflects the shared priorities of the Senate and recommends several thoughtfully targeted investments in health care, housing, environment, economic recovery, and workforce development, while addressing economic and racial inequality and helping the communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate ARPA spending plan recommends a total of $3.66 billion in spending, utilizing up to $2.5 billion in available American Rescue Plan Act funds and up to $1.45 billion in available Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 state surplus resources. Informed by the testimony heard extensively throughout the public hearing process, which included over 25 hours of public hearings and more than 450 letters of public testimony, the Committee’s bill supports an equitable recovery for communities hardest hit by the pandemic, while maintaining the flexibility necessary to take advantage of future federal funding opportunities.

“I applaud Senate President Spilka and Chair Rodrigues for their leadership and for using this spending plan to take meaningful action to address persistent issues plaguing our health care system and expand access to housing, food, and economic development opportunities, especially in communities most impacted by the pandemic,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Means

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Senate Advances Genocide Education Bill

BOSTON (10/21/2021) – On Thursday October 21, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate in passing An Act concerning genocide education to require every middle school and high school in the Commonwealth to include instruction on the history of genocide and to promote the teaching of human rights issues. Similar legislation was advanced by the Senate in prior sessions, but this most recent iteration comes as incidences of hate and anti-Semitism are on the rise across the country, with several incidents reported in Massachusetts over the past year.

“The limited knowledge and understanding that many young people have of the Holocaust and other instances of genocide is alarming,” said Senator Friedman, Vice-Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Education and learning about the history of genocide – and the painful consequences of ignorance, bigotry and intolerance – is a critical tool in dismantling hate in our Commonwealth. I thank Senator President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, Senator Lewis, and my Senate colleagues for taking this important step toward equipping the next generation with the knowledge and the resources they need to recognize and dispel hate and ignorance in our communities.”

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Senate Passes Landmark Voting Reform Legislation

BOSTON (10/06/21) – On October 6, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate to pass S.2545, An Act fostering voter opportunities, trust, equity and security (the VOTES Act). This comprehensive voting reform bill permanently codifies the popular mail-in and early voting options used in Massachusetts in 2020. The bill would also enact same-day voter registration, increase ballot access for service members serving overseas, and make a series of other improvements to the Commonwealth’s election administration process.

“At a time when voting rights are under unprecedented attack across the country, I’m proud to live in a state that continually searches for opportunities to promote and expand voter participation,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways & Means. “This historic bill strengthens our democracy and continues to ensure that Massachusetts voters can safely and easily exercise their fundamental right to vote. I applaud Senator President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, and Senator Creem and Finegold for their leadership and commitment to this issue.”

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Senate Overrides Governor’s Vetoes on FY22 Budget Provisions

BOSTON (9/30/21) – On Thursday, September 30, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate in taking final action to override a series of gubernatorial vetoes on the state budget for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). In restoring key provisions of the budget, the Senate will ensure that a greater portion of the Commonwealth’s vulnerable populations receive vital support from the state, that long-term studies of poverty and higher education affordability are carried out, and that regional transit authorities are sufficiently funded to emerge from the global COVID-19 pandemic, along with other items.

“Thanks to the leadership of Senate President Spilka and the work of Chair Rodrigues and the entire Ways and Means committee, we are able to fulfill our commitments made during budget deliberations to safeguard the health and wellness of some of our most vulnerable populations,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Committee on Ways and Means. “By overriding these vetoes, we are also able to strengthen our regional transit, update our tax codes, and support our retirees, all while leaving the Commonwealth in a strong fiscal position.”

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Massachusetts State Senate Passes Healthy Youth, Gender ID and Student Nutrition Bills

BOSTON (09/23/21) – On Thursday, September 23, 2021, the Massachusetts Senate passed three bills that would provide students with age-appropriate, medically accurate and inclusive sex education; allow a non-binary option other than male or female on birth certificates and drivers licenses; and ensure that more children in Massachusetts have access to nutritious school meals. These bills all provide essential building blocks to ensuring a safe, healthy, inclusive, and resilient Commonwealth.

“I gladly voted for these bills, which reflect the Senate’s commitment to continue supporting the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Every student should have access to nutritious school meals and to medically accurate, inclusive sex education curricula. Likewise, every person should be able to claim accurate gender identity information on their drivers’ license. Thank you to the Senate President, the Chair of Ways and Means, and my colleagues in the Senate that advocating so passionately for our children, students, friends, and neighbors.”

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Senate Overrides Governor’s Vetoes on Fiscal Year 2022 Funding

BOSTON (07/29/21) – Today, the Massachusetts Senate overturned Governor Baker’s vetoes on certain items in the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget passed in the Legislature earlier this month. The actions taken by the Senate will ensure adequate funding for school districts, regional transit authorities (RTAs), and public and mental health supports, as well as the implementation of last year’s landmark police reform bill. Additionally, action by the Senate reinstates certain guidance relevant to state bodies such as the MBTA and prison facilities.

“Overriding the Governor’s vetoes on parts of the Fiscal Year 2022 budget was necessary to safeguard the health and wellness of some of our most vulnerable populations,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “These vetoes allow the Disability Law Center to continue to play an important role in protecting persons served at Bridgewater State Hospital, as well as restore funding for a crucial study to help us analyze the existing and anticipated impacts of the pandemic on children’s behavioral health. I would like to thank Senate President Spilka, Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and my colleagues for their swift action in reinstating these vital provisions.”

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Massachusetts Legislature Passes $261.6 Million FY 2021 Supplemental Budget

BOSTON (07/21/2021) – Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature in passing a $261.6 million supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21). The FY21 supplemental budget addresses time-sensitive deficiencies, extends expanded voting options, provides supports for the implementation of the 2020 landmark police reform law, and makes investments to support the Commonwealth’s continued recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continuing to pave the way to an equitable recovery, the supplemental budget includes $191 million to provide support and stability for our early educator workforce, $27.9 million for one-time economic relief payments to families on transitional assistance, and $12.5 million for costs associated with the implementation of last session’s landmark police reform bill.

“As we continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic, we must maintain funding for critical services throughout the Commonwealth, which this supplemental budget allows us to do,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Through this budget, we are making important investments in our early education and care system, reforming the representation of the MBTA’s governance and management board to better reflect the population it serves, and ensuring voter access by extending mail-in and early voting options.”

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Massachusetts Legislature Passes Bill Authorizing $350 Million in Funding for Transportation Infrastructure

BOSTON (07/15/2021) – The Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill that will invest $350 million in municipal transportation and selected statewide transportation infrastructure projects. The bill, An Act financing improvements to municipal roads and bridges, authorizes $200 million for municipal roads and bridges through the Chapter 90 program and $150 million to support statewide projects to address congestion, support electric vehicle infrastructure, prioritize bus infrastructure, and improve public transit.

“The Chapter 90 proposal advanced by the Legislature directly supports our communities as travel and commuting increases,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington). “Investing in projects that support reliable, safe, and accessible transportation infrastructure is vital to our communities’ overall well-being, both in the short- and long-term. Thank you to Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, Senator Boncore, and my colleagues in the House for prioritizing these much needed transportation improvements.”

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Massachusetts Legislature Passes Fiscal Year 2022 Budget

BOSTON (07/09/2021) – On Friday, July 9, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Legislature in unanimously passing a $48.07 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). This budget maintains fiscal responsibility, does not cut services, makes targeted investments to address emerging needs, safeguards the health and wellness of the most vulnerable populations, and ensures residents will benefit equitably as the state recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taking into consideration strong tax revenue performance in FY21, the final FY22 budget increases revenue assumptions by $4.2 billion over the December consensus revenue projection; the new tax revenue projection is now $34.35 billion. As a result, the FY22 budget does not make a withdrawal but instead transfers funds into the Stabilization Fund, projecting an estimated balance of approximately $5.8 billion for this crucial ‘rainy day’ fund at the end of the fiscal year.

“We could not have predicted the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic but over the past 16 months we have done our best to prepare for the future, and I’m proud the FY22 budget continues that work by making robust short- and long-term investments in mental and behavioral health services, education, local health departments, and so much more,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and member of the FY22 Budget Conference Committee. “I sincerely thank Senate President Spilka, Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and the rest of my colleagues in the Legislature for their work supporting all residents of the Commonwealth, especially those most in need.”

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