I write to you today with public health and legislative updates.
I also want to share some exciting office news. First, my new Legislative Aide Ryan Telingator started in the office on Tuesday and we are very happy to have him. Ryan was raised in Cambridge and attended CRLS.
In addition, we have several interns this summer who are doing great work on legislative, district, and Public Health Committee tasks. Our legislative/district interns are Greg Cooper, Elle Rosier, and Sundari von Wentzel and our Public Health Committee interns are Julia Geskey, Anthony Milisci, and Nicholas Penders. Look out for future social media posts with more details about each of them.
Table of Contents
- Cambridge Updates
- Legislative Updates
- Public Health Updates
- Recent Press
- A Glimpse at the Past Week
- Mental Health Services and Resources
Cambridge Juneteenth Celebrations
On Monday, June 19th, Cambridge celebrated Juneteenth, an annual celebration of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 which declared that “all persons held as slaves” within the Confederate states “are, and henceforward shall be free,” it wasn’t until June 19th, 1865 that the last of the enslaved population in America were actually freed in Galveston, Texas. Learn more about Juneteenth here.
Juneteenth calls on all of us to celebrate the amazing Black community in our city and Commonwealth, and to re-dedicate ourselves to dismantling the institutionalized racism closely intertwined in the fabric and history of our nation and to creating a more equitable Commonwealth where all folks can thrive, regardless of their identity.
The Juneteenth celebrations in Cambridge this year included the 2023 Juneteenth Freedom Parade - organized by the Cambridge Families of Color Coalition, Paragon Society, and the City of Cambridge - which honored Patrick Henry Raymond, the city’s first African American fire chief.
Community Events and Traffic Impacts in Cambridge This Weekend
There are many community celebrations in Cambridge this weekend. Enjoy these events and see below for how they will impact traffic.
- The City Dance Party is back! It will take place between 6:00pm and 10:00pm on Friday, June 23rd. This event is free and open to the public, and will occur in front of City Hall.
- Road closure: Massachusetts Avenue will be closed to traffic, from Prospect Street to Lee Street, from approximately 5:00pm-11:00pm.
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 bit.ly/3J7FYAO
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.
Briefing on Overdose Prevention Center Bill
This week, I hosted a legislative briefing and launch event for An Act relative to preventing overdose deaths and increasing access to treatment (H.1981/S.1242), which I filed with my colleague Representative Dylan Fernandes and my Public Health Committee Co-Chair, Senator Julian Cyr. We learned shortly before the event that there were more opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts in 2022 than in 2021, which had been the deadliest year on record. We will provide a summary and a link to the report in the next newsletter. Overdose prevention centers ensure that there are people and resources available to respond within those few crucial minutes, which often means the difference between life and death. The bill that I filed with Representative Fernandes and Senator Cyr would establish the legal and regulatory framework for communities to operate overdose prevention sites successfully. As one mother who lost her son to an overdose said, “While there is life, there is hope for recovery. We have to keep them alive.”
Updated Health and Physical Education Curricular Framework by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Governor Maura Healey recently announced proposed updates to the state’s health and physical education curriculum, which has not been updated since 1999. The proposed changes align closely with two bills filed in the Legislature: An Act relative to healthy youth (H.544) filed by Leader Jim O'Day and Representative Vanna Howard, and An Act relative to providing health education in schools (H.455), a bill filed by Representative Alice Wolf that I have continued to file. It is great news to know that children in every zip code and every neighborhood in Massachusetts will be provided with accurate health education, allowing them to make informed choices for protecting themselves while contributing to the overall public health of each of our communities.
Public Health Updates
FDA advisers back updated COVID shots for fall vaccinations
A panel of expert advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously this week to recommend that the COVID-19 vaccine be updated to target emerging subvariants of omicron. The committee specifically supported targeting the subvariant XBB.1.5, which accounts for about 40% of new infections in the U.S., with the goal of rolling out the newly formulated shots in anticipation of a possible uptick in cases this fall. Learn more at bit.ly/42K6Qgn.
DPH Testing for West Nile Virus and EEE Virus
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health began statewide mosquito testing for West Nile virus (WNV) and eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus on June 12th. In 2022, DPH identified eight human cases with one death and 95 West Nile virus-positive mosquito samples. Most human cases of WNV and EEE occur in the months of August and September. You can check your risk levels throughout the season by visiting www.mass.gov/dph/mosquito.
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 mass.gov/COVID
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 mass.gov/masshealthrenew or call (800)-841-2900 to learn more about this process.
‘Never seen that done’: 25 Investigates questions Mass. medical examiner performance data
By Ted Daniel and Marina Villeneuve, Boston 25 News
A national accreditation body for medical examiners’ offices has told Massachusetts’ Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to fix discrepancies in its autopsy data, 25 Investigates learned Friday – three months after 25 Investigates first began asking about the way the data was calculated.
[Representative Marjorie] Decker told 25 Investigates that it’s time for Healey’s administration to hold Hull accountable.
“It’s been an office that’s full of a lot of excuses that really has a very strong resistance to accountability,” Decker, of Cambridge, said.
Decker said she’s heard from constituents frustrated with delays and responses from Hull’s office over the years.
“We’ve seen the reports that have come out that show that Massachusetts continues to fall short, comparing us to not only the national average but even to states like Connecticut,” Decker said. “We are not meeting the needs of families who are grieving and really deserve to understand why their loved ones died when it’s not clear.”
Learn more at tinyurl.com/2p97p565.
A Glimpse at the Past Week
Congratulations to the 2023 Cambridge Mayor's Little League Cup Champions the Cubs (minor league) and the Angels (major league)!
I was happy to join the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce 2023 Inspire Awards and congratulate honoree Cambridge Public School Committee Member Ayesha Wilson along with fellow Inspire Awardees Heather Henriksen, Denise Jillson, Emma Lees, Aisha Losche, Miriam Ortiz, Tiffany Thiel, and Kathy Watkins, as well as Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Gilda Nogueira.
I attended an important Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers briefing on Primary Care Access: Urgent Needs and Systemic Solutions. I want to thank the League and all of the leaders and staff at community health centers who play a critical role in ensuring all of our neighbors are being cared for in the communities in which they live and work.
I was honored to receive a Distinguished Advocacy award from the American Cancer Society along with my colleagues Representative Roy, Representative Lawn, Senator Cyr, and Senator Friedman for our work in enacting step therapy legislation last session.
I hosted a legislative briefing and launch event for An Act relative to preventing overdose deaths and increasing access to treatment (H.1981/S.1242), which I filed with my colleague Representative Dylan Fernandes and my Public Health Committee Co-Chair, Senator Julian Cyr. See Legislative Updates above for details.
I toured Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and joined legislators, members of the Spaulding team, and attendees from Mass General Brigham in a roundtable discussion.
I was proud to nominate Cambridge resident, Lynn Margherio, founder and CEO of Cradles to Crayons, for a 2023 Commonwealth Heroine Award. Lynn is a leader in the fields of social justice and children's issues. Since launching Cradles to Crayons in 2002, Lynn has led the organization to successfully elevate the issue of clothing insecurity, while trying to provide important resources for so many families throughout Massachusetts and the entire country. In doing so, she has also provided meaningful experiences for over 1 million youth and adult volunteers.
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: 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 intimate partner. You can find more information at 10to10helpline.org or by calling 877-898-3411.
As always, do not hesitate to reach out to me with questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov.