Achieving mental health parity
I have seen first-hand how difficult it can be for families to navigate the behavioral healthcare system in Massachusetts. I’m also familiar with the emotional strain that family members experience when trying to provide their loved ones with the care and treatment they deserve. These experiences often include multiple hospitalizations, days spent in ERs, frequent altercations with law enforcement, and multiple interactions with providers who sometimes have little understanding of mental illness. I believe one of the most important measures we can take to begin to fix this system and increase access to care is to achieve actual mental health parity. As such, I’ve filed a bill (S.588) this session to take us one step closer to mental health parity implementation by improving parity enforcement through requirements for enhanced carrier reporting, addressing barriers created by insurers such as the onerous and time-consuming approval processes, applying parity across payers, including the Group Insurance Commission, and ensuring consistent and fair application of medical necessity criteria. Mental health parity is the federal law of the land and it’s time we start holding insurance companies accountable.
Addressing the opioid crisis
Time and time again, medical experts have characterized substance use disorder (SUD) as a disease that must be treated like any other disease, yet we continue to punish people with SUD by incarcerating them and treating them like criminals. This needs to change. We must ensure that people with SUD who are committed through a Section 35 civil commitment are treated with dignity and respect. In addition, we must ensure that the entities involved in making decisions on behalf of these individuals are experts in the area of behavioral health. As such, I’ve filed legislation (S.1145) that would require that all Section 35 involuntary civil commitment beds for SUD for men and women be in facilities approved by the Department of Public Health (DPH) or the Department of Mental Health (DMH), and not in correctional facilities (where some Section 35 beds are currently located). It would also require that people with SUD who are civilly committed under Section 35 be treated as patients, not as criminals. This bill will help in changing the conversation around the opioid crisis and ensure that individuals with SUD are in the best position to get the care and treatment they need.
Reforming our criminal justice system
Every year, Massachusetts courts mandate thousands of people suffering from SUD to submit to invasive drug-testing as a condition of pretrial release or probation. If relapse occurs, many are incarcerated, even when they are actively working to achieve long-term recovery. It is both unsafe and unjust to require defendants suffering from SUD to remain relapse-free or else face jail. It is also contrary to all available scientific research, which tells us that relapses are part of the SUD recovery process. As such, I filed a bill (S.937) that would allow a court to order a defendant who has a SUD to participate in treatment as a condition of pretrial release or probation, but prohibit the court from imposing incarceration if relapse is the only infraction and the defendant is otherwise engaged in treatment. This bill is an essential step in helping individuals undergo the natural process of recovery and get the treatment they need and deserve without the fear of being taken back to a jail cell during pretrial detention or probation. – Read this article in the Lowell Sun to learn more
Reducing recidivism among emerging adults
In Massachusetts, emerging adults (youth between ages 18 and 26) are automatically prosecuted and sentenced as adults, despite research that shows that emerging adults constitute a developmentally-distinct population. Unfortunately, the results of this are not good: not only does Massachusetts end up spending a disproportionate amount of resources on this age group in the justice system, but emerging adults who have been incarcerated have the highest recidivism rates. To help reduce recidivism among this population, I’ve filed a bill (S.940) that would require the adult criminal justice system to adopt developmentally-appropriate, evidence-informed policies to ensure positive outcomes for system-involved young adults and increase public safety. In addition, the bill would amend the purpose statement of the criminal justice system to explicitly articulate rehabilitation as the goal for emerging adults by including language closely resembling the language related to juveniles, with appropriate modifications. The passage of this bill would allow us to hold young people accountable while fostering rehabilitation, achieving better youth outcomes, increasing safety and reducing the long-term costs associated with a lifetime of justice involvement.
Addressing sexual harassment in the workplace
Our sexual harassment and anti-discrimination laws in Massachusetts cover employer-employee and landlord-tenant relationships, but they do not cover an investor-investee relationship. As reported in recent news stories across the country, women entrepreneurs often face sexual harassment and discrimination from private investors – like venture capitalist (VC) firms – and, as a result, have an increasingly difficult time receiving funds to start their business. That’s why I introduced a bill (S.939) to close this loophole. If passed, my bill would ensure that workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination protections extend to VC and investor relationships, not just the traditional employer-employee relationship. Passage of this legislation would ultimately decrease instances of sexual harassment and discrimination as well as hold VC firms accountable. This would make it easier for women to get the funding they need, encourage more women to join this pipeline and become entrepreneurs, and benefit the business community overall. – Read this article in the Boston Globe to learn more
Protecting the public from gas leaks
In response to a series of public safety incidents involving dangerous gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley and theover pressurization of gas lines in Woburnlast fall, I’ve filed legislation (S.1969) that seeks to protect the public and gas workers from potentially dangerous gas leaks. This bill would establish several natural gas worker and public safety reforms, including new requirements related to gas infrastructure inspection, gas leak repair, and natural gas oversight. All of us should feel safe in our homes and should never have to worry about the potential for gas explosions – and our gas workers should always feel protected from the threat of these circumstances. I’m eager to advocate for this bill throughout the session to ensure that instances like what happened in the Merrimack Valley and Woburn never happen again.
Improving our transportation infrastructure
There have been several proposals introduced over the years that would generate more revenue to support the MBTA in order to fix our transportation infrastructure without negatively impacting riders. Among those proposed alternatives is legislation (S.1664) I’ve filed to ensure the tax on Transportation Network Companies (TNC), like Uber and Lyft, remains in place indefinitely. Included in the 2016 TNC law is a twenty cent per ride tax on TNCs to provide support for state and local infrastructure projects, assist with new transportation technology, and service improvements for small businesses in the taxi, livery or hackney industries. This tax, however, is set to sunset in 2026. This legislation would extend this tax indefinitely, which could generate as much as $13 million per year in revenue – a huge source for additional transportation infrastructure upkeep and improvements for municipalities. Ensuring that this tax on TNC rides continues is critical, especially given TNC’s ongoing and growing use of roads, bridges and highways.
In an effort to boost political participation, I’ve filed a bill (S.404) that would remove barriers to political contributions by all workers through a system of universal voluntary payroll deductions. The bill would enable employees to authorize small, regular voluntary deductions from their pay – at levels they choose – to contribute to political and advocacy organizations. If passed, this bill would create a much more streamlined process for individuals who wish to support political organizations of their choice upon receiving their paycheck. Authorizing these voluntary contributions will, in turn, promote increased political participation among Massachusetts residents as well as provide additional support and resources to organizations in need throughout the Commonwealth. It would also help fight against Citizens United by encouraging small, grassroots donations to combat the influence of big money in politics.
As a lifelong advocate of women’s health and reproductive rights, I believe it is important that all women – regardless of economic status – have access to the healthcare services and resources they need in order to live safe and healthy lives. As such, I’ve filed a bill (S.587) that would require insurance coverage for all medical care related to pregnancy, including c-sections, abortion, and abortion-related care, be provided free of any deductibles, co-insurance, co-pays or other cost-sharing arrangements. This initiative would greatly increase access to much-needed healthcare services to many women across the Commonwealth.