Friedman Joins Senate in Passing Legislation to Help People with Disabilities Live Independently

Senate bills support wheelchair users, recognize supported decision-making agreements

(BOSTON – 11/03/2022) The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed two bills to help people with disabilities live independently in Massachusetts. First, An Act expanding wheelchair warranty protections for consumers with disabilities takes steps to ensure that wheelchair users are not stranded for long time periods in the event of the breakdown of an in-warranty wheelchair. Second, An Act relative to supported decision-making for agreements for certain adults with disabilities recognizes supported decision-making as an alternative to guardianship, allowing certain people with disabilities to retain greater decision-making power over their lives.

“I am proud of the Senate for passing these two very important initiatives today,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Ensuring that wheelchairs, an essential medical device, have strong warranty protections and allowing our residents to have greater decision-making power is necessary in our work to guarantee that people with disabilities are able to live their life with as much freedom as possible here in the Commonwealth. I hope that these two bills are taken up in the House soon so they can be signed into law.”

Expanding Wheelchair Warranties

Wheelchair repair poses substantial problems for people with a mobility or physical disability in Massachusetts. In the event of a wheelchair breaking or otherwise failing to function, it is not uncommon for wheelchair users to wait weeks for repairs, including for wheelchairs under warranty. This leaves these individuals stranded at home and unable to go to work, school, medical appointments, grocery shopping, or elsewhere.… Read more.

Friedman Lauds New Law Limiting Step Therapy Practices

(BOSTON – 11/02/2022) Yesterday, Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation to limit the use of step therapy, or ‘fail first’ protocols that too often direct patients to cheaper medications rather than those more suitable to treat their condition. The bill, An Act relative to step therapy and patient safety, gives health care providers more leverage in determining the most effective treatment options for patients, saving patients expensive and painful regimens on medications they know to be ineffective or harmful. This law builds on similar legislation passed by the Senate in 2020, which was introduced by Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington).

“This lawis a major step forward in ensuring patients and doctors have access to the right medication at the right time,” said Senator Friedman, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “We are finally joining over half the states in the nation in reforming step therapy practices, putting the focus back on health care providers working with patients to offer the best treatment possible.”

Step therapy serves as a cost-saving mechanism that can limit a patient’s ability to access the medication that is most suitable for treating their condition. Insurers that utilize step therapy protocols require medical providers to prescribe lower-cost medications to patients first, and only grant approval for alternative medications when the cheaper options have failed to improve a patient’s condition. In practice, this results in insurers effectively choosing medications for the patient, even in cases where their providers have recommended an alternative. When patients change insurers, they are often forced to start at the beginning of the step therapy protocol again, which results in wasteful health care expenditures, lost time for patients, and potentially devastating health care impacts on the patient.… Read more.

Governor Baker Signs Legislature’s Expansive Mental Health Bill

Law will further equitable access to mental health care for residents

(BOSTON – 08/16/2022) Today, legislative leaders and advocates joined Governor Baker for the ceremonial bill signing of the Mental Health ABC Act: Addressing Barriers to Care, comprehensive legislation to continue the process of reforming the way mental health care is delivered in Massachusetts, with the goal of ensuring that people get the mental health care they need when they need it.  The Governor officially signed this legislation into law on August 10, 2022.

The Mental Health ABC Act is driven by the recognition that mental health is as important as physical health for every resident of the Commonwealth and should be treated as such. The legislation includes a wide variety of reforms to ensure equitable access to mental health care and remove barriers to care by supporting the behavioral health workforce.  

“The health care system in Massachusetts is only as strong as its weakest link, and for far too long, mental health care has been overlooked and underfunded,” stated Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This law confronts this reality with the most comprehensive mental health care action the Commonwealth has seen in recent years, and it builds off of the historic investments we made in this care system over this past two-year legislative session. Of particular importance to me, this bill will finally provide the state the tools it needs to enforce existing mental health parity laws and it will address the emergency department boarding crisis that is impacting too many of our children and their families.… Read more.

Massachusetts Legislature Passes Comprehensive Legislation Protecting Access To Reproductive And Gender-Affirming Care

(BOSTON–07/26/2022) Today, the Massachusetts Legislature passed comprehensive legislation designed to further protect and expand reproductive health care and gender-affirming services in the Commonwealth. Although abortion remains legal in Massachusetts due to the Legislature’s efforts to codify and expand access to reproductive rights in 2020, the Legislature today took additional action to further protect these rights and establish additional safeguards following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legislation, An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care, provides legal protections to abortion providers, out-of-state patients, and insurers; expands access to contraceptives; and helps ensure that women who face grave circumstances after 24 weeks of pregnancy are not forced to leave Massachusetts to access reproductive health care services.

“In the face of an increasing amount of anti-abortion and anti-gender-affirming care laws enacted across the country, Massachusetts continues to serve as a national leader in protecting these essential rights with the passage of this legislation,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing and the lead sponsor of the bill. “We must do everything we can to protect the rights of our providers, patients, and visitors to the Commonwealth. This bill takes important steps to ensure that pregnant people who face dire circumstances after 24 weeks of pregnancy are not forced to leave Massachusetts in order to access reproductive health care services, and places the decision-making power to end a late term pregnancy in the hands of the patient and their treating physician, not a hospital’s independent review panel.… Read more.

Friedman Amendments Included in Senate Legislation to Promote Economic Growth and Give Residents Relief

$4.57 billion spending package includes tax relief, funding for health care, housing,
technology, tourism and other sectors strained by the COVID-19 pandemic

(BOSTON – 07/21/2022) On Thursday, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate passed a $4.57 billion spending package to promote economic development in the Commonwealth and give relief to residents facing the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic turbulence. The bill includes a broad-based tax relief package that will result in permanently lower taxes for many households and hundreds of thousands of residents receiving rebates from the state. Seven local amendments introduced by Senator Friedman were adopted, amounting to $5 million in local funding.The bill targets investment to sectors such as health care, housing, early education, agriculture, and tourism, which have been impacted by economic uncertainty. The bill also pursues economic growth by investing in climate resiliency, public lands, and clean energy.

“True economic development only occurs when we are meeting and exceeding the basic necessities of all of our residents – and that’s what we’re trying to focus on in this bill,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This legislation invests several billion dollars in working families supports and programs across the Commonwealth. I’m glad to see my local amendments were adopted, which focus on increasing local funding for clean drinking water initiatives, food insecurity programs, and infrastructure investments.”

4th Middlesex Funding Highlights

  • $4 million for Burlington’s Mill Pond Treatment Plant PFAS Filter
  • $300,000 for Burlington’s Northeastern Innovation Campus
  • $275,000 for Lexington Transportation Improvements
  • $200,000 to Food Link for Combatting Food Insecurity
  • $200,000 for Billerica’s Buck Auditorium Renovations
  • $125,000 for the Arlington Youth Counseling Center
  • $100,000 for Social Capital Inc.
Read more.

Massachusetts Legislature Passes FY23 Budget

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Legislature on Monday unanimously passed a $52.7 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23). This budget upholds fiscal responsibility and makes targeted investments to strengthen the state’s economic foundation, protect the most vulnerable residents and support the everyday needs of communities and families in the Commonwealth.

“The FY23 budget invests significantly in the Commonwealth, funding services and programs that will benefit all residents,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I’m especially proud of the historic investments we make in early education and care, and the work we’ve done to improve community-based mental health and substance use disorder services in our state. This budget reaffirms our commitment to supporting working families across Massachusetts, and includes funding for education, health care, food insecurity, and programs for our most vulnerable neighbors.”

Senate Passes Friedman Legislation Expanding Protections for Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Care

(BOSTON – 07/13/2022) The Massachusetts State Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a bipartisan bill protecting providers, residents, and visitors to the Commonwealth who engage in legally-protected reproductive and gender-affirming health care. 

An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care includes provisions preventing the Commonwealth’s cooperation with ‘bounty-style’ anti-abortion and anti-gender-affirming care laws in other states, mandates health insurance coverage for abortion and abortion-related care with no cost-sharing, ensures access to emergency contraception, and provides confidentiality to providers of reproductive and gender-affirming care. Senate Bill 2996, filed by Senator Cindy F. Friedman, expands on her amendment to the Senate Fiscal Year 2023 budget, which was filed in response to the leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson and adopted by the Senate in late May.

“Passing this legislation is a monumental step forward in Massachusetts, as we are seeing increasingly more anti-abortion and anti-gender-affirming care legislation rise across the country,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing and the lead sponsor of the bill. “We must do everything to protect the rights of our providers, patients, and visitors to the Commonwealth. As we further realize the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson in our Commonwealth, we will continue to fight these attacks on reproductive and gender-affirming care with meaningful action.”

“We cannot let other states threaten Massachusetts pregnant and transgender people, or the providers who take care of them,” said Senate President Karen E.Read more.

Friedman Votes to Pass Transformational Bill to Expand Access to High-Quality, Affordable Early Education and Child Care

Senate bill would support children and families, early education providers,
and the early education workforce

(BOSTON–07/07/2022) Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined  the Massachusetts State Senate unanimously pass S.2973 An Act to expand access to high-quality, affordable early education and care. This bipartisan legislation will transform early education and child care in the Commonwealth by making it more accessible and affordable for families, providing high-quality care for young children, strengthening early education providers, improving compensation and professional development for the early education workforce, and addressing the workforce needs of Massachusetts employers. The bill draws from the recommendations made by the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, which was created by the legislature in 2020 and issued its final report in March 2022.

“This legislation will provide much-needed support to working families and schools and child care centers – the very locations that serve as the foundation of a child’s learning and early development,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Improving our early education and child care systems by making them more accessible and affordable will ensure a brighter future for more Massachusetts children. Passing this bill unanimously highlights the Senate’s dedication to ensuring that families have access to quality, affordable child care and early education.”

High-quality early education helps young children to develop stronger communication, social, and cognitive skills. Investments in early education have been shown to yield considerable long-term benefits, such as higher academic achievement and greater lifetime earnings.… Read more.

Senate Passes Legislation for Children and Families

Bills update safeguards for DCF-involved children and establish bill of rights for foster parents

(BOSTON – 06/30/2022) The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed legislation to ensure stability and oversight of care for the more than 3,000 Massachusetts children involved with the Department of Children and Families (DCF), as well as to ensure protection of the rights of foster parents. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) voted in favor of the legislation.

Following the revelation that DCF failed to act on leads which might have prevented the abuse and tragic death of 14-year-old David Almond, S.2953 An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families creates additional safeguards and clarifies requirements for DCF-involved children and families. To ensure that foster parents’ rights are respected in all interactions between a family and the Commonwealth, S.2954 An Act establishing a foster parents’ bill of rights seeks to codify the fundamental rights of foster parents.

“We have a duty in the Legislature to ensure that vulnerable children in the care of the Department of Children and Families are protected, and that those responsible for these children are also held accountable and act in the children’s best interests,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. Equally important to children and families are the legislative steps we took today to establish positive rights for foster parents that will strengthen our Commonwealth’s foster care program – leading to more safe, supportive foster homes for our most vulnerable children.”

Safeguards for DCF-Involved Youth

S.2953 An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families updates and consolidates the reporting requirements of the Department of Children and Families (DCF).… Read more.