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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Arlington shows solidarity with Jewish community following Chabad fires

Members of the Arlington community packed Town Hall early Monday evening to express solidarity with a local Jewish family, who had their Lake Street home set on fire twice in the last week.

Speakers included Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Acting Chief of Police Julie Flaherty, Robert Treston of the Anti-Defmation League and State Senator Cindy Friedman.

“Each day people fight harder and harder to ensure that everyone in our community feels welcome,” Friedman said. “In trying times such as these we must stick together and support one another. We have to continue to demonstrate that we are a welcoming and inclusive community. Despite all the bad things going on in the world right now, I am continuously encouraged by the individuals in our community that consistently display what Arlington is about.”

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We must protect the protectors

When police officers lay it all on the line and are severely injured while protecting the people of the commonwealth, we owe it to them to come to their aid with the same urgency they showed in coming to ours.

In 2011, Woburn Police Officer Robert DiNapoli was shot six times during a botched jewelry store robbery. But, as the Herald’s Mary Markos reported, though DeNapoli got the medical attention that was needed to keep him alive, he received no such aid in the process of collecting the benefits he and his family would need to survive afterwards.

DeNapoli and Oliveira went on to co-found the Violently Injured Police Officers organization, which provides support for law enforcement officers who have sustained serious, lasting injuries in the line of duty. They are now pushing a piece of legislation filed by state Sen. Cindy Friedman that would give severely injured police officers 100 percent of their regular pay until they reach retirement age and then 80 percent of their pension.

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Bill would aid severely injured officers in painful benefits battle

Being shot point-blank six times wasn’t as painful as trying to get a payment package from the city for a former Somerville police and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent, who was forced to retire because of his line-of-duty injuries.

DeNapoli and Oliveira, co-founders of the Violently Injured Police Officers organization, are pushing for a piece of legislation filed by Sen. Cindy Friedman. The bill would give severely injured police officers 100% of their regular pay until they reach retirement age and then 80% of their pension.

“It’s really unfair,” Friedman said. “If they are no longer able to do that job because, in the process of doing what we expect them to do they get so critically injured that they can’t do that job anymore, then I think it’s fair for us to say, “Okay, we need to step in here.”

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Amid Growing Debate About Supervised Drug Consumption Sites, Mass. Poll Finds Narrow Support

Exactly half of Massachusetts residents support the idea of opening supervised consumption sites in the state. A WBUR poll found 43% oppose such clinics, where drug use is monitored to prevent or reverse an overdose. And 8% of 660 adults (topline resultscrosstabs) declined to respond or were undecided.

In Massachusetts, state Sen. Cindy Friedman of Arlington and several colleagues are drafting legislation based on the commission recommendation to create one or more supervised consumption pilots. “We’ve got to try everything we can to try to help these people stay alive and get treatment,” Friedman says. “We should be seeing if it will work here.”

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57% Of Mass. Adults Know Someone Struggling With Opioid Addiction, WBUR Poll Shows

A new WBUR poll shows that the opioid epidemic is hitting more and more Massachusetts residents close to home. The survey also suggests that most state residents aren’t on board with a controversial law that allows the state to use jails and prisons to involuntarily commit some men to addiction treatment.

A state commission set up last year to review the law — called Section 35 — is expected to deliver a preliminary report next week. Among the members of that commission is Democratic state Sen. Cindy Friedman, who says jails are not the right place to treat people struggling with addiction.

“I understand that, in some cases, we need to just get people into a safe place,” she said. “But it’s all treatment-focused; it’s all about getting people healthy and in treatment. And I firmly believe that can’t happen in an environment where the structure is about corrections and punishment.”

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