Early voting in Massachusetts starts today!

Early voting for the 2020 Presidential Primary Election starts today in Massachusetts! Hours vary by city and town. Check out the early voting schedule for Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, Lexington and Woburn below or visit http://MassEarlyVote.com. If you are unable to vote early, be sure make a plan to vote on Super Tuesday – March 3, 2020.

If you have any questions about upcoming elections or the voting process, please visit the Elections page on the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleidx.htm.

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Senate Passes Mental Health ABC Act: Addressing Barriers to Care

(BOSTON – 02/13/2020)  Today, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed the Mental Health ABC Act, comprehensive legislation aimed at reforming the mental health care system in Massachusetts. Senate Bill 2519, An Act Addressing Barriers to Care for Mental Health, serves as the first step toward developing a more integrated system of mental health care delivery to better meet the needs of individuals and families.

“For far too long, mental health has been a forgotten component of our health care system, resulting in a broken system that has continually left patients without the critical care they need,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This bill lays an important foundation for creating a system that is accessible and equitable, and provides the state with better tools to ensure that someone with a mental health condition has the same access to care as someone with physical health needs. I want to sincerely thank Senate President Spilka for recognizing the urgency of this issue and committing to a bold step forward with the passage of this bill. I also want to thank Senator Cyr, Senator Rodrigues and all of the advocates involved in crafting this bill for their thoughtful collaboration and shared commitment to reforming our mental health care system so that it works for everyone.”

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‘Mental health needs to be for everyone’: Massachusetts Senate passes bill to improve behavioral health care access

The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a bill that would bring the state closer to providing behavioral health services that are as accessible as physical health care.

For its lead proponents, the legislation was personal. Sen. Cindy Friedman, who authored the bill with Cyr, said she found the mental health system to be disconnected, difficult and costly as she sought treatment for her child.

The bill’s passage comes as Gov. Charlie Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders promote their own health care bill, which calls for increased spending on primary, geriatric and behavioral health care services.

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Go the distance for mental health parity

Mental health parity — treating mental and physical illnesses with equal seriousness, concern, and coverage — has been the law of the land for decades. But changing laws is easy; changing actual clinical practice and the health care system that supports it is far more difficult. This week the Massachusetts Senate is scheduled to vote on a package of legislation aimed at bringing actual practice into the 21st century .

“Our system is broken,” said Senator Cindy Friedman, cochair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “Mental health has long been treated as the stepchild of the health care system.”

But breaking that pattern won’t be easy. Friedman cites the problem of children with acute mental illness who may be “boarded” in an emergency room for weeks. But that problem won’t be solved by having a psychiatrist on call or an insurance company that won’t balk at paying the bill without prior authorization.

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Tele-psychiatry, emergency care coverage, licensing changes: Mass. Senate adds mental health bill to the mix

State senators on Thursday introduced a bill that would require that patients suffering acute mental health symptoms get treatment without waiting for prior authorization, roll out a pilot program for tele-psychiatry in schools and implement other reforms to improve access to behavioral health services.

“Mental health care has long been treated as the lesser step-child of the health care system,” said Sen. Cindy Friedman, an Arlington Democrat and one of the authors of the bill. Friedman, who has spoken out about her child’s mental health treatment, described the system as disconnected, difficult and expensive in its current form. “For many families with loved ones in need of mental health care, finding that care is impossible,” she said.

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Senate Leaders Plan to Tackle Natural Gas Bill

Natural gas safety and infrastructure won’t be part of the suite of climate policy bills the Senate is debating Thursday, but a handful of senators said leadership has pledged to bring a separate gas safety bill to the floor later this session. Senators withdrew their natural gas-related amendments from consideration Thursday afternoon, telling their colleagues and the public that they are satisfied with the commitment from Senate President Karen Spilka and others to address the state’s gas infrastructure in standalone legislation.

“I am really pleased the Senate president, the chair of Ways and Means and the senator I share Lexington with have agreed to do a natural gas bill to address all the issues that come up in these amendments,” Sen. Cindy Friedman said as she withdrew an amendment that would have established gas worker and safety reforms.

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Senate Unveils Mental Health ABC Act: Addressing Barriers to Care

BOSTON – On February 6, the Massachusetts Senate unveiled An Act Addressing Barriers to Care for Mental Health, comprehensive legislation aimed at providing a framework for reforming mental health care in Massachusetts. The Mental Health ABC Act removes barriers to timely quality care, provides the state with more effective tools to enforce existing mental health parity laws, and invests in the mental and behavioral health workforce pipeline. This legislation reflects the Senate’s overall goal of improving mental health care for all – a personal priority for Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) who served as one of the chief architects of the bill.

“For far too long, mental health has been a forgotten component of our healthcare system despite our statutory parity mandate that calls for equitable coverage between medical and surgical treatment and mental health treatment,” said Senator Friedman, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This bill serves as a first step forward in addressing the persisting inequities in our delivery of mental health services that keep patients from accessing the care they need, and will provide a framework for the state to better enforce our mental health parity laws. I want to thank Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, and Senator Cyr for their thoughtful collaboration on this initiative and shared commitment to reforming our mental health care system so it is accessible, affordable, and equitable for all.”

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Friedman Votes on Next Generation Climate Policy, Advocates for Low Income Communities

BOSTON – On January 30, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her Senate colleagues in advancing three pieces of legislation that boldly tackle the contributing factors of climate change, propose one of the most forward-thinking courses of action against global warming in the country, and pave the way for a clean energy future for all of its residents.

“The Senate has shown its commitment to combating climate change with a sense of urgency by passing this next generation climate proposal,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington). “I’m pleased that we took this major step forward to protect our environment, and am particularly proud that this legislation includes an amendment I fought for that would protect low-income families when the state is developing regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our communities. I want to thank Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, and my Lexington counterpart Senator Barrett for taking the lead on this issue and putting Massachusetts on a path toward a clean, green and sustainable future.”

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Letter to the Editor: Sen. Friedman is focusing on right priorities

The following is an excerpt of a Letter to the Editor published in the Lexington Minuteman by Amy Rosenthal, Executive Director of Health Care for All and Lexington resident:

A recent Lexington Minuteman story highlighted the health care accomplishments of state Senator Cindy Friedman. We should feel proud that Massachusetts is a national health care leader – our insurance rate is 97% for adults and 98% for children; our hospitals are international leaders; and we are testing innovative ways to improve the quality of our care. However, we know that having a health insurance card is not a guarantee to affordable services and more needs to be done to address inequities in our health care system. 

That’s why it’s invigorating to see that state leaders like Senator Friedman are willing to focus on key health care priorities. She helped negotiate provisions in our FY20 state budget that have helped bring down the cost of prescription drugs for the state’s MassHealth program, saving the state $6 million in the first few months alone. 

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