Opinion: Telehealth is working, let’s keep it that way

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our lives, our healthcare system, and our economy, but one silver lining has been the immediate and dramatic expansion of telehealth services. We’d be foolish not to seize this opportunity to ensure that telehealth access remains a part of routine medical care in the Commonwealth long after the pandemic is over.

Teleheatlh refers to health care services that are provided remotely, typically through videoconference or phone call. It offers a convenient way for patients to access care and consult with a doctor through technology, such as a laptop or phone, that a patient may already own. Telehealth allows patients to essentially take part in a virtual doctor’s appointment—whether it’s using a tablet to snap a photo of your skin to send to your dermatologist for a quick evaluation or having a 30-minute counseling session with your therapist over the phone.

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Black Lives Matter

Rightfully so, many of you have reached out to me over the last few weeks calling for reform in the way that we police and to confront the systemic racism that is deeply embedded in our institutions – and I couldn’t agree more. This moment requires us to stand together, make our voices heard, and demand action so that we can make meaningful change together.

Read more about some of my thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement in Massachusetts and how we should move forward.

OPINION: Friedman writes, actions taken by the state providing positive results

The COVID-19 public health crisis has placed an unprecedented strain on Massachusetts residents, businesses, our healthcare system and our economy. We’ve made extraordinary sacrifices as the state took swift science-driven measures to slow the spread of the virus and save lives. 

Massachusetts acted fast and early, implementing a stay-at-home advisory, social distancing guidelines and closure of non-essential businesses. Simultaneously, the state dramatically expanded testing and hospital capacity, allowing us to test 10,000 plus residents per day and increasing intensive care unit (ICU) bed capacity by 80%.

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Letter to the Editor: Sen. Friedman is focusing on right priorities

The following is an excerpt of a Letter to the Editor published in the Lexington Minuteman by Amy Rosenthal, Executive Director of Health Care for All and Lexington resident:

A recent Lexington Minuteman story highlighted the health care accomplishments of state Senator Cindy Friedman. We should feel proud that Massachusetts is a national health care leader – our insurance rate is 97% for adults and 98% for children; our hospitals are international leaders; and we are testing innovative ways to improve the quality of our care. However, we know that having a health insurance card is not a guarantee to affordable services and more needs to be done to address inequities in our health care system. 

That’s why it’s invigorating to see that state leaders like Senator Friedman are willing to focus on key health care priorities. She helped negotiate provisions in our FY20 state budget that have helped bring down the cost of prescription drugs for the state’s MassHealth program, saving the state $6 million in the first few months alone. 

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Massachusetts Senate zeroes in on drug costs

Massachusetts Senate leaders introduced their entry into the debate last week, teeing up the Pharmaceutical Access, Cost and Transparency Act for floor debate Thursday.

The legislation seeks to broaden the powers of the commission to look at any drugs costing $50,000 a year or more or any “drug whose cost exceeds an HPC value for that drug.” “You will see a public process around cost and proposed value,” said Senator Cindy Friedman, cochair of the Health Care Financing Committee.

What matters on Main Street is that no one should have to cross our northern border to buy life-saving drugs. That no one should try to whip up a batch of insulin in the basement. That consumers know that the drugs they and their insurers are paying for will be assessed for both cost and value.

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Op-Ed: Safe injection sites are another tool on the path to recovery

When we were first introduced to the idea of safe injection facilities, we were not immediately on board. In fact, we felt uneasy about it, but vowed to keep an open mind.

After serving on the state’s harm-reduction commission, listening to testimony, studying the effectiveness of safe injection facilities in other countries, visiting clinics in the Boston area, and learning from experts, our perspective changed. The idea of such sites is uncomfortable to many, but it’s not about our comfort level. It’s about keeping people alive long enough to get them into treatment.

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I support the ROE Act – here’s why.

I have received numerous phone calls and emails from many of you regarding the ROE Act (S.1209), a bill filed by my colleague, Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler. I would like to take this time to outline my support for the bill, clarify what the bill seeks to accomplish, and address some of the concerns and misconceptions regarding the bill.

Please take a moment to read my statement on why I support the ROE Act and if you have not done so already, read the full text of the bill on the Massachusetts Legislature website. In addition, feel free to share my statement with your friends and neighbors in our community. 

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Letter to the Editor: Social workers key to addressing opioid crisis

There is a rising need for social workers in Middlesex County and throughout Massachusetts to help us manage the most pressing public health problem we face today – the opioid crisis.

In 2017, there were 357 opioid-related overdose deaths in Middlesex County, more than any other county in Massachusetts. There is an urgent need to address this crisis – and social workers are an integral part of the solution. 

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NFL reveals its hypocrisy in Josh Gordon case Boston Globe

Kudos to Nestor Ramos (“In Josh Gordon case, a troubled league fails a troubled man,” BostonGlobe.com, Dec. 22) for calling out the disgusting hypocrisy of the NFL. More troubling in the response to Josh Gordon’s struggle with a serious disease, is their complicity in demonizing mental illness vs. treating it like the illness it is.

If Gordon were taking medication for any physical ailment, the league would not blink. They don’t seem to have any trouble addressing the symptoms of physical pain that their players have to live with (drugs are certainly part of that). But their neanderthal and dangerous response to Gordon’s actions not only hurt him but hurt the many who suffer with a devastating and difficult-to-treat condition.

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An update on National Grid and protecting locked out workers A message from Senator Cindy Friedman

Over the last few weeks, I have heard regularly from many of you regarding your concerns with National Grid’s lockout and the impact it has had on over 1,250 Massachusetts workers and their families. I wanted to provide you an update and let you know that I have been in regular contact with National Grid and the United Steel Workers Unions regarding the ongoing contract negotiations. I remain troubled that National Grid has been unable to put forward an agreeable contract, and am frustrated by reports of continuous safety violations on gas lines. As the cold winter months approach, it is especially imperative that the locked out workers be able to return to work.

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