Friday, December 15 Legislative & Public Health Updates

Dear friends, 

 

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

 

Thank you to everyone who joined me at my winter celebration at Raymond Park on Saturday to bring diapers or have a donut. Your donations will support countless community members at Cambridge Community Center and Transition House. You can see images of the event in the Glimpse at the Past Week. 

 

I am devastated to share that Paul Parravano, an amazing human, friend, advocate, and community member, tragically passed away after a battle with cancer. Paul served as the Co-Director of MIT’s Office of Community and Government Relations and reinvented what it meant for higher education institutions to be involved in the community. Please join me in sending deep condolences to his wonderful family and friends. 

 

Table of Contents

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

Legislative Updates

DPH voices support for overdose prevention centers (OPCs)

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) released an Overdose Prevention Center Feasibility Report which states that “DPH believes that OPC establishment is feasible and necessary, pending legislative action to extend legal protections, and recommends that OPCs be pursued as an additional tool to address the harms of substance use.” The report elevates the bill I filed alongside my colleagues Representative Dylan Fernandes and Senator Julian Cyr, An Act relative to preventing overdose deaths and increasing access to treatment (H.1981), as currently filed legislation that could address the tragic and avoidable overdose deaths that continue to devastate families across the Commonwealth. 

 

House passes bill to require paid time off for voting

On Thursday, the House passed An Act protecting the right to time off for voting (H.4217) in an informal session. This bill requires employers to provide workers with paid time off to vote in any election — municipal, state, or national and preliminary, primary, or general — provided they give three business days of advance notice. I look forward to the Senate taking this up for a vote. 

 

Comments to EOHLC about the state of the EA shelter system

On Friday, I submitted written comments to the Executive Office of Housing and Liveable Communities (EOHLC) expressing my strong opposition to their capping of the Emergency Assistance (EA) shelter at 7,500 and creating a waitlist for eligible families over the cap to wait on. I have consistently voiced my concern about the Administration’s actions restricting EA access for the most vulnerable families in the Commonwealth. I appreciate Speaker Mariano and Chair Michlewitz’s leadership in negotiating a supplemental budget that appropriated $250 million to address the EA crisis. You can read my comments here


Public Health Updates

FDA Approves First Gene Therapies for Sickle Cell Treatment

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first gene-based therapies, Casgevy and Lyfgenia, to treat sickle cell disease (SCD) in patients 12 years and older. SCD is a group of inherited blood disorders that most commonly afflicts people of African descent. Casgevy, developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals of Boston and CRISPR Therapeutics of Switzerland, is the first FDA-approved therapy that utilizes CRISPR-Cas9, a genome editing technology, to modify patients’ blood stem cells through DNA editing in targeted areas. Lyfgenia, developed by Somerville-based Bluebird Bio, is a cell-based gene therapy that uses an engineered virus to insert genetic modifications into the DNA of patients’ blood stem cells. Both drugs are among the most expensive medicines approved, costing $3.1 million per patient for Lyfgenia, while Casgevy will cost $2.2 million per patient. Boston Medical Center is expected to be the first Boston hospital to make both treatments available. 

 

Supreme Court to Hear Case on Abortion Pill

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court agreed to rule on the accessibility of mifepristone, a commonly used abortion pill in the U.S., evaluating the circumstances under which it can be prescribed. This comes 18 months after the overturn of Roe v. Wade that ended the constitutional right to abortion. The appellate court ruling could limit abortion access to the drug, even in states that protect it, including prohibiting its access through mail or from being prescribed by telemedicine and shortening the time when mifepristone can be used in pregnancy from ten weeks to seven weeks. Justices will hear appeals from the Biden Administration and Danco Laboratories, the maker of mifepristone. The case is expected to be argued in the spring.


Cambridge Updates

Cambridge Public Health Helpline Supports Residents with COVID-19

To speak with someone, call the confidential COVID-19 Hotline at 617-933-0797. Learn more here.

 

City Offering Free At-Home COVID Tests in Partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance

The tests 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.


A Glimpse at the Past Week

   

It was great to see so many neighbors, constituents, and new friends who stopped by to donate diapers, check in with me on the many different issues our community cares about and decorate cookies at my winter celebration. I deeply appreciate your support for local families and both the Cambridge Community Center and Transition House. 

 

Also on Saturday, it was great to stop by the Central Square Business Improvement District’s (Central Square BID’s) community celebration. Thank you for the love, joy, and celebration you honor the Central Square community with every day. 

 

On Tuesday, I attended the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization’s constituent meeting in North Cambridge. Alongside Cambridge and Somerville legislators, I answered questions about the Massachusetts affordable housing crisis and issues related to returning citizens. I appreciate the questions and the engagement from all who attended.

 

On Thursday, I attended and spoke at the Children's Mental Health Campaign’s (CMHC’s) School-Based Behavioral Health Summit, which featured discussions and breakout sessions about implementing solutions for the youth behavioral health crisis in schools. I have worked closely with the CMHC to address youth, adolescent, and school-based behavioral health in the Commonwealth for the past few sessions, and am proud that a bill I filed alongside them, the THRIVES Act, was largely reflected in the mental health omnibus package signed into law by Governor Baker last year (Chapter 177 of the Acts of 2022).


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: https://www.decker4rep.com/2021/mental-health-services-and-resources/

 

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 10to10helpline.org 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: https://www.massoverdosehelpline.org, or access it by calling 800-972-0590.

As always, please contact me with questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov.

 

Sincerely,  

Marjorie

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