COVID-19 vaccine advisory group member: ‘We need to be ready’

On Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker’s office announced the formation of a 17-member COVID-19 vaccine advisory group to help advise the state moving forward.

The group isn’t just comprised of medical professionals, infectious disease experts and community leaders. There are also two legislators on the committee who are looking into any state laws or regulations that could potentially stand in the way of an effective rollout in Massachusetts.

“I will be focused on anything that may be a barrier statutorily or through regulations that may prevent an efficient and effective rollout,” said Massachusetts State Sen. Cindy Friedman, who’s one of the 17 members. “If there’s any work we have to do that the legislature can support, we’re here to do that.”

Read more

Telehealth, COVID-19 Response Command Center key factors in combatting outbreak in Massachusetts, officials say

As the coronavirus pandemic ramped up across the United States early in 2020, Massachusetts officials began to implement a variety of measures aimed at staving off transmission of the viral respiratory infection and protecting the public.

Having the command center was just critical, just to have not only a central place, but a single person,”Friedman said. “I don’t wish that job on anyone, but that was so critical, because there was a place where we could at least centralize information and feel like we were getting information back forth.”

Read more

Friedman Secures $2.5 Million For Burlington Transportation

Senator Cindy F. Friedman(D-Arlington) recently joined her colleagues in voting on legislation to jumpstart investment in transportation infrastructure and make the Commonwealth’s transportation system more reliable and accessible to residents. The bill includes $2.5 million Friedman fought for to support roadway and sidewalk reconstruction and traffic safety improvements in the Town of Burlington.

“This bond bill allows our cities and towns to invest in local transportation projects that will enhance our infrastructure while creating much-needed jobs during this time of financial hardship,” said Senator Friedman. “I’m pleased that I was able to secure vital investments for our community, paving the way for a more modernized transportation infrastructure that works for everyone.”

Read more

Sen. Cindy Friedman responds to Woburn Pride flag incident

Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, who represents the city of Woburn, released the following statement on June 30 after someone tore down the Pride flag in Woburn Common:

“I’m deeply disappointed and saddened to hear that someone tore down the Pride flag in Woburn — this is a hateful act that is simply not representative of who we are as a community. Despite this, members of our community stepped up and raised a new Pride flag today, and I couldn’t be more proud of their efforts.

The Pride flag is for everyone — it symbolizes safety, unity, inclusiveness and love for all, and sends the message that “all are welcome here” no matter your sexual identity, gender, race, ethnicity, religion or background. All who live in and visit our district should always feel safe and welcome to be who they are and love who they want to love.”

Read more

COVID-19 testing must become more accessible, experts say

Public health experts argued Monday that Massachusetts needs to make universal COVID-19 testing available to reduce the outbreak’s disproportionate impact on low-income and nonwhite communities, and the Baker administration believes it can respond best with a more targeted approach.

After several local and regional health officials told a Senate panel they want more funding to be directed to health boards, Sen. Cindy Friedmanasked what else besides money they needed to better protect the state’s residents. Three speakers in a row all offered similar responses: Testing needs to be far more accessible than it currently is, and at no cost.

Read more

Bill to allow Woburn fire headquarters construction

Rep. Richard Haggerty, D-Woburn, Rep. Michelle Ciccolo, D-Lexington, and Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, announced the passage of legislation allowing for the swapping of land parcels in Woburn to allow the city to begin construction of its new Fire Department Headquarters at Forest Park.

“This bill was the first step to ensure Woburn has access to the land it needs to build a new fire station,” said Friedman. “I’m excited that the Woburn Fire Department can now move forward with this project, which will benefit our firefighters, our residents and the larger Woburn community. I’m glad to have worked with my colleagues in the House to get this done.”

Read more

Senate bill extends telehealth, scope of practice

Senate leaders on Thursday released a health care bill, called the Patients First Act, which addresses telehealth, out-of-network billing, and scope of practice changes. While the bill is only partially related to COVID-19, Sen. Cindy Friedman, an Arlington Democrat who co-chairs the Committee on Health Care Financing, said the pandemic makes it urgent that lawmakers pass reforms to ensure the health care system is financially sustainable and people continue to have access to care.

“The impact on the health care system has been so profound we’ve got to make sure we have policies in place that allow providers to continue to do the work as things ramp up and as people come back into the system,” Friedman said.  

Read more

Advocates hail AG Maura Healey’s efforts to improve mental health parity; insurers argue laws remain ambiguous

Attorney General Maura Healey announced settlements resolving allegations that three health insurance companies — Harvard Pilgrim, Fallon and AllWays Health Partners — violated the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. She also announced agreements to improve behavioral health access with four other companies: Beacon Health Strategies, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Optum and Tufts Health Plan.

Sen. Cindy Friedman, who has spoken out about her efforts to get mental health treatment for her family, applauded Healey’s office for addressing what she called a lack of parity compliance.

Friedman also said the agreements help make the case that the Legislature should pass the Senate’s own parity bill, the Mental Health ABC Act, that passed earlier this month. “I’m hopeful that the Legislature will recognize the seriousness and urgency of the issue highlighted by the attorney general today and take appropriate action this session,” she said in a statement.

Read more

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.

Read more

‘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.

Read more