Lexington senator says supervised injection center can’t wait

State Sen. Cindy Friedman was among the lawmakers who spent months studying ways to reduce the death toll from opioid overdoses. And she did not parse words when presenting findings Wednesday: the state has an “obligation” to pilot a supervised injection site, as a commission recommended.

“I know that the idea of safe consumption sites is uncomfortable to many, but if they are proven to save lives, then we have an obligation to at least give them a try,” Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, a member of the Harm Reduction Commission, told a committee July 24. “Lives are at stake and we cannot wait any longer.”

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Ghost Networks are Beneficial to Insurers, Detrimental to Patients

A recent study revealed that out of 360 psychiatrists listed on Blue Cross Blue Shield’s (BCBS) in-network provider portal in Houston, Chicago, and Boston, 74% were completely inaccessible because the contact information listed was inaccurate.  In fact, many of the phone numbers rang through to other businesses.  If a doctor was reached, the office didn’t accept BCBS or were not accepting new patients even though the list specified they were. 

Massachusetts state Senator Cindy Friedman has been working towards getting insurance companies to update their provider lists for some time, ensuring they have accurate contact information.  She said, “They’ve known about this for a long time and they haven’t done anything about it.  It’s difficult not to assume that this kind of barrier is intentional.”

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Venture capitalists oppose plan to bar discrimination in investments

Boston’s venture capital industry, long dominated by white men, has repeatedly pledged to fund a more diverse group of startup founders. But now it’s resisting a state legislative proposal that would prohibit investors from discriminating against women and minorities when deciding which companies to back.

The bill, proposed by state Senator Cindy F. Friedman, an Arlington Democrat, would subject investors to legal consequences if they sexually harass those they fund or consider funding, or if they discriminate on the basis of race, gender, or any other class protected by state law.

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Obama’s drug czar Michael Botticelli backs bill to get addiction patients out of jails

A bill that would end the decades-old practice of sending men committed to substance use disorder treatments to jail got a nod of approval from former President Barack Obama’s drug czar. Michael Botticelli called the Massachusetts law — the only state in the country with such a mandate — ineffective, inhumane and costly for taxpayers.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Ruth Balser of Newton and Sen. Cindy Friedman of Arlington, would eliminate the practice for both men and women. It would require any civilly committed people to be treated at a facility run by the Department of Public Health or the Department of Mental Health, instead of the Department of Corrections.

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Workplace Harassment Reform Would Include Investors; VC Group Has Concerns

The Massachusetts sexual harassment and discrimination laws that call for fair workplace treatment do not include investors or financiers, but a bill working its way through the Legislature would change that.

The proposed bill (S939) by state Sen. Cindy Friedman, a Democrat from Arlington, calls for the sexual harassment and discrimination laws to apply to investors, and private investors such as venture capitalists, in particular. A similar law went into effect in California this past January.

“What I hear is, Oh, if we start holding this class of people [investors] accountable, they are not going to talk to women anymore or deny access,” Friedman told BostInno. “They say that we will stop meeting with women. But that’s discrimination, and one could argue that it wouldn’t be lawful.”

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Single-payer health insurance: discussion heats up in Massachusetts

Lawmakers on Beacon Hill Tuesday will hold a hearing on a proposal to overhaul the state’s health care system with a single-payer “Medicare-for-All” concept, an idea that is gaining traction with some of the Democratic candidates for president. The measure would remove private insurance companies in favor of direct payment by state government to health care providers.

“This hearing will give the public an opportunity to provide their input on an important initiative that must be a part of the discussion as we continue to find ways to mend our broken health care system in Massachusetts,” committee co-chairman Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, said in a statement to the Daily News. “I look forward to hearing testimony from the public and continuing the conversation on how we can work together to address inequities in health care so that our system works better for everyone.”

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Low pay, debt creates crisis in human services workforce

BOSTON – With stagnant wages, frequent turnover and the growing pressure of student loan debt, human services providers face a staffing crunch that leaves them without sufficient resources to meet the needs of the state’s most vulnerable populations, advocates told lawmakers Tuesday.

More than a dozen bills were before the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities for a hearing, but a common theme ran through many of them: addressing the plight of service employees who, despite helping those with significant physical and mental needs, cannot make ends meet.

“This is an incredibly important issue,” said state Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, the bill’s Senate sponsor. “We are facing a very serious workforce crisis.”

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Arlington student honored at State House in Letters About Literature award ceremony

An Arlington student was among those honored at the annual Letters About Literature awards ceremony on May 23 in the Reading Room of the State Library at the Massachusetts State House.

Willa McMaken-Marsh, a sixth grader at Gibbs School, received Honors in Level 1 for grades 4-6 for her letter to Patricia Polacco about “In Our Mothers’ House.” Willa also received State House citations and personal congratulations from Sen. Cindy Friedman and Rep. Sean Garballey. After the ceremony, she and her family were able to observe deliberations in the Senate chamber at Friedman’s invitation.

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$5 million proposal by Massachusetts Senate would expand needle exchange programs, increase access to Narcan

House and Senate budget negotiators on Wednesday will begin settling a wide range of spending differences in the annual state spending plan, but in doing so they will also face major decisions about a series of potentially life-saving measures.

Senate negotiators on a six-member conference committee will try to convince their House colleagues to agree to a $5 million program aimed at reducing the death toll from the opioid epidemic.

“Those things that you see are very much all evidence-based because this is what the commission found,” said Sen. Cindy Friedman, who sat on the Harm Reduction Commission. “Without that commission, we certainly wouldn’t have the understanding and the evidence that these things work. I think that was a major part.”

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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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