Friday, July 14 Public Health and Legislative Updates

Dear friends,


I write to you today with Cambridge and public health updates. 


Table of Contents

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


Cambridge Updates

Honoring Saundra Graham

This week, Cambridge said goodbye to a leader who spoke truth to power for over 50 years. In 1970, at the young age of 28, she halted Harvard University’s graduation for 35 minutes along with her neighbors. Fed up with having been ignored and dismissed for weeks on end, they called on the University to stop encroaching on the neighborhood and to build affordable housing. Saundra went on to become the first Black woman elected to the Cambridge City Council and the third woman of color elected to the House of Representatives; found what was then called the Massachusetts Black Legislative Caucus; and serve as a voice calling out and challenging racism, white supremacy, and misogyny while uplifting the voices of people struggling in poverty. I had the extraordinary privilege of being asked to speak at Saundra’s memorial service, which in a full circle moment was celebrated at Memorial Church, which is of course the backdrop to Harvard’s graduation. I was joined by so many community leaders, neighbors, and her incredibly large and loving family, whom she adored. I will share more regarding Saundra’s incredible legacy and a life well-lived over the next week. For today, my condolences continue to go out to her family, those who loved her, and those who were fortunate enough to know her.


Community gathers to celebrate life and legacy of Saundra Graham

By Avery Bleichfeld, The Bay State Banner

During a funeral held at the Harvard Memorial Church, an extensive assembly of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandchild of former Cambridge city councilor and state representative Saundra Graham gathered to celebrate her life and legacy alongside her friends, former colleagues in government and others impacted by her work.

Graham was celebrated for her long standing efforts to speak out for and legislate in support of women, the state’s Black residents and other marginalized groups, locally and statewide. …

State Rep. Marjorie Decker said that when Saundra Graham called her, she knew better than to ignore the call and that it was never about something Graham needed, but rather to brainstorm to address some injustice. Even in death, Decker said people would continue to listen to Graham’s call.

“I believe all of us will continue to answer her call and that call is to be accountable, to be reflective, and to ensure that we are doing everything we can to fight injustice wherever and whenever we see it,” Decker said.



Applications for Rise Up Grant Program Close on July 31

Rise Up Cambridge is a grant program funded by the City of Cambridge to provide direct cash to low-income Cambridge households with children at or under 21 years of age, earning at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level. Eligible households will receive $500 per month for 18 months. The program was funded with $22 million that Cambridge received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, and will run as a pilot program for 18 months. Applications for the program close on July 31st. Read more about the program here: 


New Neighborhood Profile

The City of Cambridge’s Community Development Department released an updated 2023 Neighborhood Statistical Profile, which provides a statistical snapshot for each of Cambridge's thirteen neighborhoods as well as the city as a whole. This is a great resource to learn more about the characteristics of your neighborhood, the other twelve neighborhoods, and the city in general.


Sumner Tunnel Closure

The Sumner Tunnel is closed for restoration from July 5th through August 31st. This will increase traffic in and around the Greater Boston area, and, most saliently for Cambridge residents, will impact travel to Boston Logan Airport. In an effort to mitigate the delays, the MBTA is adding additional routes to the SL1, the silver line route that connects South Station to the airport. Please plan accordingly if you are traveling to the airport, as the Massachusetts Department of Transportation encourages people to build in extra travel time.


Public Health Helpline Supports Residents with COVID-19

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. The hotline is managed by the Cambridge Public Health Department. Learn more at


City Offering Free At-Home COVID Tests

The Cambridge Public Health Department, in partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance, 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.


Public Health Updates

Rates of Severe Maternal Morbidity Nearly Doubled Over a Decade in MA

A report released Wednesday by the the Department of Public Health (DPH) found an alarming increase in unexpected, life-threatening health complications related to pregnancy and birth. The rate of severe maternal morbidity (SMM) nearly doubled from 52.3 per 10,000 deliveries in 2011 to 100.4 per 10,000 deliveries in 2020. Black non-Hispanic birthing people consistently suffered the highest rates of serious maternal health complications, with inequities increasing each year. According to the report, by 2020, the SMM rate for Black non-hispanic birthing people was 2.5 times higher than that of White non-Hispanic birthing people. The report also revealed inequities experienced by birthing people with disabilities, particularly among intellectual, vision, and mobility-related disabilities. Read more about the findings of the report at


End of COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

As a reminder, the COVID-19 public health emergency has ended. That means: 

  • Healthcare facilities can set their own mask policies
  • Private insurers aren’t required to provide free rapid tests
  • Vaccines & treatments are still covered by insurance in MA

Learn more at


MassHealth Redetermination Underway

The MassHealth eligibility redetermination process began on April 1. Over the upcoming year, MassHealth will renew the membership of all 2.3 million members. Visit or call (800)-841-2900 to learn more about this process. 


A Glimpse at the Past Week

Funeral held at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard - Remembering the life of Saundra Graham


Mark Ostow photo workshop & Gov. Healey - Gov's office

I was excited to host the Teen Photo Workshop summer camp at the State House this week, where they were able to meet and photograph Governor Maura Healey! I was also able to take the photographers on a tour of the State House, which included a stop in the chambers of the House of Representatives. The Workshop fosters an interest and develops skills in photography for teenagers in the Greater Boston area, and it has been hosted for 20+ years by Cambridge photographer Mark Ostow. I look forward to seeing the pictures they took of the State House!


Press Conference at Washington Elms for EMPath’s AMP Up Program

I was happy to speak at EMPath’s press conference about the expansion of their AMP Up program to Cambridge. Having grown up in Cambridge public housing, I was grateful to see many residents continue to show up and give feedback on these new programs. I always say that poverty is a direct result of policy choices, and I remain thankful to all the community members who are helping us change policies that keep people from meeting their needs and achieving success.


Common Start Rally

I am proud to co-sponsor H.489, An Act providing affordable and accessible high-quality early education and care to promote child development and well-being and support the economy in the Commonwealth, and I was glad to join parents, educators, providers, advocates, and fellow legislators at the Grand Staircase in support of the bill on Thursday. The Commonwealth is facing a child care crisis: costs are exorbitantly high for parents, programs are struggling to retain educators, educators are underpaid, and the economy is suffering as parents leave the workforce to avoid child care costs. Something must be done to address the issue, and I look forward to working with House Chair Denise Garlick and the bill’s lead sponsors — Representative Ken Gordon and Representative Adrian Madaro — to move it forward. 


Biogen Meeting - Introduction to 8 new bills. Discussion on new drug and pricing.  


Mental Health Services and Resources

If you or a loved one are struggling, please know that 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 intimate partner. You can find more information at or by calling 877-898-3411.


As always, do not hesitate to reach out to me with questions or concerns at




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