Senate Passes FY 2020 Mid-Year Supplemental Budget

BOSTON (2/28/20)  – On February 28, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in passing a mid-year supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2020 of $123 million in spending to address time sensitive deficiencies and unforeseen needs across the Commonwealth that require immediate attention.  

“This budget demonstrates the Senate’s commitment to providing residents across the state with the resources they need to sustain their lives while maintaining fiscal responsibility,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Most notably, this budget maintains critical heating assistance for low-income households, increases healthy food options, supports our students, and funds an important behavioral health awareness campaign to improve the well-being of residents across the Commonwealth.”

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Philly to open country’s first safe injection facility. Could Mass. be next?

BOSTON — As Philadelphia announced it will open the country’s first safe injection site in South Philly, legislation is underway at the State House to open sites in Massachusetts.

“I think it’s good news and I’m glad the city is moving forward on a safe injection facility,” said Senator Cindy Friedman. Friedman served on the state’s task force studying safe injection sites. She says while she’s happy Philly is opening a facility, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re much closer to getting one in Mass.

“I think it will be a great test for everybody. I’m not sure it will have a huge influence on Massachusetts because I know that our U.S. Attorney has vowed that he won’t be swayed by the decision,” she said.

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Everything You Need to Know About the Mental Health ABC Act

The Senate recently passed the Mental Health: Addressing Barriers to Care (ABC) Act, a comprehensive bill aimed at reforming the mental health care system in our state. I had the pleasure of working closely with Senate President Karen Spilka, Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues, and Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery Chair Julian Cyr in crafting and passing this important piece of legislation, and I’m so pleased with the product of our work. The bill is now before the House of Representatives for consideration. Throughout the remainder of the 2019-2020 legislative session, I will continue to advocate for this important bill – among the many other bills I’m working on this session – because I know how critical it is to my constituents in the 4th Middlesex district and to residents across Massachusetts.

For those who still have questions about the bill or want to learn more about why this bill is so important to our district and the Commonwealth, please click on the following link:

Everything You Need to Know About the Mental Health ABC Act

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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