Friday, October 27 Public Health & Legislative Updates

Dear friends,

I am writing to you today with public health, Cambridge, and legislative updates.


Table of Contents

  • Public Health Updates
  • Cambridge Updates
  • Legislative Updates
  • Recent Press
  • A Glimpse at the Past Week
  • Mental Health Services and Resources


Public Health Updates

New Study Shows that Maternal COVID-19 Vaccination Protects Infants

A study published on Monday in JAMA Pediatrics found that infants born to mothers vaccinated against COVID-19 during pregnancy had reduced risks of severe neonatal morbidity, neonatal death, and NICU admission for up to six months after birth. The study observed 142,006 infants, with those exposed to Covid-19 vaccines in utero having a 14% lower risk of severe neonatal issues, 53% lower risk of death, and a 14% lower NICU admission rate. This aligns with previous benefits seen with other vaccines during pregnancy. However, vaccine hesitancy has hindered vaccination rates among pregnant women in the U.S., despite the data showing its safety. Building trust between clinicians and pregnant patients is crucial to improving vaccination rates. 

Report Shows Hunger Rose Sharply in the U.S. Last Year

Hunger in the U.S. increased significantly in 2022, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report reveals that 44.2 million people struggled to get enough food, up from 33.8 million the previous year, with over 13 million children experiencing food insecurity, a 45% jump from 2021. This marks a reversal of a decade-long decline in hunger, attributed to the end of pandemic-era measures, such as the expanded child tax credit, increased SNAP benefits, and free school meals. Rising food prices, housing costs, and unstable gig-economy jobs have further exacerbated the issue. Food insecurity disproportionately affects households with children and communities of color, with potentially severe health consequences, particularly for children. 

BMC Launches Pilot Program to Help Patients Pay for Their Electricity

Boston Medical Center Health System (BMCHS) has launched the first-of-its-kind Clean Power Prescription program, allowing BMC healthcare providers to prescribe patients reduced utility bills through renewable energy. The program uses energy credits, generated from metered solar panels on BMC's administrative building that converts clean energy into credits through a federal tax credit leveraged from the Inflation Reduction Act, to lower patients' electric bills. During the initial phase, the prescription program will be available to 80 households with patients who are Eversource electric customers and are treated in BMC's Complex Care Management program, which focuses on patients who need more hospital care, have a chronic condition, and are in the health system’s Medicaid program. Eligible patients are expected to receive $50 monthly credits, saving households about $600 annually. Read more information about the Clean Power Prescription program here.

DPH Reports Fifth Human Case of West Nile Virus

The Department of Public Health (DPH) recently reported the fifth human case of West Nile Virus (WNV) in a Massachusetts resident this year. WNV is transmitted to humans through a bite from an infected mosquito. Anyone can contract WNV; however, people over 50 are at an increased risk for severe disease. Symptoms of WNV resemble the flu and may include a fever. Although the cool fall weather reduces mosquito activity, there is still a risk of mosquito-borne disease until the season’s first hard frost. Until then, it is important for people to continue to take precautions against mosquito-borne illnesses by applying insect repellent with DEET, permethrin, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus; wearing long sleeves, pants, and socks when outdoors; and being aware of peak mosquito activity at dawn and dusk. For more information about West Nile Virus, visit


Cambridge Updates

Public Health Helpline Supports Residents with COVID-19

The Cambridge Public Health Department manages a hotline to provide residents with COVID-19 additional support. To speak with someone, call the confidential COVID-19 Hotline for the public health departments of Cambridge, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop at 617-933-0797. Learn more about this service here.

City Offering Free At-Home COVID Tests

The Cambridge Public Health Department, in partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), is providing free COVID-19 rapid antigen at-home test kits. They can be picked up Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM in the CHA lobby at 119 Windsor Street. Cambridge businesses or organizations that would like free rapid tests to provide to customers can call the COVID-19 hotline at 617-933-0797 to request them. The at-home COVID test expiration date can be checked here.


Legislative Updates

State House hearings on the thousands of bills filed this session are in full swing, and two of the bills I filed were heard this week. 

  • An Act relative to preventing overdose deaths and increasing access to treatment (H.1978) would establish a 10 year pilot program for overdose prevention centers, which permit the use of substances under the supervision of trained staff members, prepared to administer first aid. The requirements of licensing for these sites include a safe space, commitment to privacy, education, and treatment referrals for participants, in addition to increasing community outreach and education. This pilot program also requires a report from all centers to be submitted to monitor needle distribution, and overdose prevention.
  • An Act authorizing the commissioner of capital asset management and maintenance to convey a certain parcel of land to the city of Cambridge (H.4129) is a home rule petition to transfer ownership of a portion of the land at the Cambridge Armory property (402 Concord Ave., Cambridge) from the state to the city of Cambridge for school and other municipal purposes.


Recent Press

Harm reduction in Massachusetts could include overdose prevention sites if lawmakers agree

By Kinga Borondy, Worcester Telegram & Gazette

The bills, sponsored by Sen. Julian Cyr in the Senate and Reps. Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge and Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, in the House, was one of a handful addressing the opioid crisis in Massachusetts and the death of more than 22,000 state residents in the last decade. The presence of fentanyl, a powerful narcotic and adulterant, in most street drugs including stimulants, makes it imperative for Massachusetts to address the issue…

“There are only safe or unsafe consumption sites,” said Rep. Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge as she testified before the committee which she once chaired. “I felt compelled to take a more proactive role,” she told her colleagues. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to save lives.”

Read the full article here.

Senate Passes I AM Bill

Somerville Times

On Thursday, the Senate voted to pass An Act to increase access to disposable menstrual products in prisons, homeless shelters, and public schools, offered by Senator Patricia D. Jehlen (D-Somerville).

This bill ensures menstrual products be provided at no cost and free of stigma in public schools, homeless shelters, and prisons. Current policies vary from setting to setting due to lack of resources, capacity, or awareness. This legislation would help fill the gaps by setting a floor for what would be determined as an adequate supply of free products, and therefore, an expectation that all menstruators’ needs could be met…

“Menstruation is not a choice,” said Representative Marjorie Decker, Co-Chair of the Public Health Committee. “Half of the world menstruates, and period products are a necessity, not a luxury. This is a human rights issue; one’s dignity should not come at the expense of buying food or medication. Everyone deserves access to menstrual products.”

Read the full article here.


A Glimpse at the Past Week

On Monday, I joined advocates from the Massachusetts for Overdose Prevention Centers Coalition to testify in support of a bill I filed with my colleague Rep. Dylan Fernandes, An Act relative to preventing overdose deaths and increasing access to treatment (H.1978).


I continue to partner with Horizons for Homeless Children on a number of issues, and was happy to celebrate their work supporting the early education and development of young children in unhoused families at their 25th Annual Women's Breakfast. It was great to hear keynote speaker and former Patriot Malcolm Mitchell talk about his work promoting youth literacy. Check out his story and his new book here.


I was proud to join amazing advocates from Stop Handgun Violence, Moms Demand Action, and March for Our Lives at The Cabot Theater in Beverly for a panel discussion on gun violence and the House’s comprehensive gun safety package that was passed last week. Massachusetts has given the country a blueprint to effectively reduce and end gun violence with measures like the red flag law, an assault weapons ban, and background checks.


Mental Health Services and Resources

If you or a loved one are struggling, please know you are not alone. There are some great resources here:

Intimate Partner Abuse Prevention Helpline

This initiative is designed to prevent intimate partner violence by fostering accountability and change in people who harm or may harm their partner. You can find more information at or by calling 877-898-3411.

Overdose Prevention Helpline

The Massachusetts Overdose Prevention Helpline is a virtual spotting / overdose detection service for people who use drugs. Learn more at:, or access it by calling 800-972-0590.

As always, please contact me with questions or concerns at






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