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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Statement in support of climate change initiatives

I have always been supportive of policy initiatives that seek to address climate change and protect our environment. After reading the recent New York Times report outlining the future of our environment and the impact that rising food shortages, wildfires and dying coral reefs will have on our livelihood by the year 2040, it is even more apparent just how serious the threat of climate change is. If we don’t act now, we will put our children and grandchildren in serious danger. We must take real action with a sense of urgency so that we can build a sustainable future for generations to come. The federal government may fail to address, or even acknowledge, this threat to society, but Massachusetts will not. No matter what happens, we will continue to lead on clean energy efficiency and pass commonsense measures that keep our state moving forward. This session, I was proud to join my colleagues in supporting the Clean Energy Future bill that passed the Legislature. The bill will increase the use of renewable energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs in the green economy. As state Senator, I will continue to remain firm in my commitment to creating a cleaner future for all and advocate for legislation that will protect our planet and create a healthier environment for everyone. Our lives depend on it.

Student loan repayment would help strengthen HS workforce Op-Ed by Senator Cindy Friedman

Human service workers provide critical support to nearly one-in-ten Massachusetts residents, yet the industry continues to face enormous difficulties recruiting and retaining staff due to low wages and immense student loan debt.

These workers care for some of the most vulnerable members of our communities – the elderly, disabled and individuals suffering from mental illness and substance use disorder – who require assistance in daily living situations.

Social workers, psychiatrists, therapists, counselors and numerous other professions all fall under the human service worker umbrella. This diverse coalition of professionals is often required to provide the kind of holistic treatment and care needed by many of the most vulnerable members of our communities.

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Treat substance use disorder like disease it is Commonwealth Magazine

MASSACHUSETTS CONTINUES TO LOOK for new answers to the opioid crisis. Despite changes to state law to require insurance coverage for inpatient substance use disorder treatment, despite the increased availability of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone (Narcan), and despite significant investments in substance use prevention programs in our communities, this disease continues to claim lives and devastate families and entire neighborhoods.

Yes, a disease – I use that word intentionally. Substance use disorder arises in individuals exposed to opioids who have a genetic predisposition, history of trauma, or both. The shameless peddling of opioids by the pharmaceutical industry has resulted in widespread exposure to opioids. In individuals with substance use disorder, brain chemistry changes in ways that reinforce the disease.

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Massachusetts Senate condemns Trump family separation policy

Like many of you, I’ve been heartbroken and sickened by the news lately.  Immigrant families are being torn apart, children are being forced into detention sites that resemble prison cells, and the federal government is showing no mercy. Our American values are under threat by a “leader” in the White House who refuses to show an ounce of decency and compassion toward the most vulnerable.

Any parent understands that separating children from their families is cruel and inhumane. Furthermore, refusing to provide safety to someone seeking asylum from violence in their country of origin is unconscionable. We have a serious, moral crisis on our hands, and we have to stand up and do something about it.

In response, I recently joined my colleagues in co-signing a letter to President Trump, condemning his actions and demanding that he take swift action to reunite every family that has been separated.

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Massachusetts gun laws — moving forward

Like many of you, I have been continually disheartened by the never-ending cycle of gun violence across our country and the lack of action by our leaders in Congress to address this crisis. I don’t use the term “crisis” lightly. I use it purposefully because the rate of gun violence in this country has truly reached a crisis-level:

  • Preschool children were killed by guns in greater numbers than police officers in the line of duty from 1999 through 2013 (with the exception of 2004);
  • There have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting;
  • 96 people die from gun violence every single day, 7 of which are children and teens;
  • 35,141 people die from gun violence every year, 2,737 of which are children and teens; and
  • 1 out of 3 homes with kids have guns and nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with an unlocked, loaded gun.

These statistics are disturbing. We cannot continue to sit back and do nothing and wait for the next tragedy to occur.

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Statement in Response to GIC Change

As many of you know, last week the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) announced that the number of healthcare carriers available to active and retired GIC members would be reduced significantly. As of July 1, 2018, members and their families will no longer be able to get healthcare through Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Tufts Health Plan (except for Medicare retirees) and Fallon Health, a drastic change that will impact over 200,000 hard-working employees, retirees, and their dependents throughout the Commonwealth.

I’ve already begun to hear from concerned families in my district who fear that they will be forced on to a new plan that may or may not allow them to keep their current doctors or continue the course of treatment that they are currently on. In addition, the decision will have a real impact on those insurers – all of whom are Massachusetts companies – and their employees who have been dropped as a result of this abrupt decision that took everyone by surprise.

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We Must Defend the Safe Communities Act

Late last year, voters received mailers from the Mass Fiscal Alliance directly attacking the Safe Communities Act (S.1305). These mailers were misleading, inaccurate, and solely designed to provoke backlash against the Safe Communities Act and the Commonwealth’s undocumented immigrant population.

In light of these deceitful and deeply disturbing mailers, I felt the need to clear up any confusion with regards to the intent of and provisions included in the Safe Communities Act. First and foremost, nothing in the Act offers protection or immunity to criminals. This is perhaps the biggest misconception about the bill and cannot be overstated. Instead of providing “sanctuary” to criminals as many have wrongfully argued, the bill instead explicitly permits police to arrest or detain a person in the course of a criminal investigation or prosecution when supported by probable cause that the person has committed a crime.

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