I want to thank you for all of the support and positive feedback you've given over the past 3 years of my sending out COVID-19 update emails. COVID is still impacting our lives and remains a serious threat for many. I am very fortunate to continue to serve as the House Chair of the Public Health Committee and will keep providing updates on any timely public health issue, including COVID-19, along with legislative updates. In the meantime we are revamping this newsletter.
We appreciate your patience over the next few weeks while we explore a new format for updates. If you have suggestions, feel free to email them to us.
Table of Contents
- Mass Shootings and Gun Laws
- Public Health Updates
- State Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- A Glimpse at the Past Two Weeks
- Recent Press
- Mental Health Services and Resources
Mass Shootings and Gun Laws
As you likely know, three children and three adults were murdered in a school shooting in Nashville this week. I am holding space in my heart for the grief, trauma, and anger of the children, families, and community members whose lives will never be the same. There have been 131 mass shootings nationwide so far in 2023, including 2 at a school or university. We live in a country where Congress is comfortable with allowing kids, grocery shoppers, parade participants, and people practicing their faith to be soft targets.
If you are concerned about a family member or someone in your home using a firearm to commit an act of violence, you may request an Extreme Risk Protection Order (also known as a red flag order) from a judge that takes away a person’s license to have or carry a gun. You must fill out a petition, which you can do online at bit.ly/3JUDB38 or in person in the clerk’s office in a District Court or Boston Municipal Court location or in a police station.
While people are frustrated with and struggling to understand Congress's lack of action, keep in mind that Massachusetts is proof that these mass shootings are not inevitable. During the 10-year period the federal assault weapons ban was in effect, mass shooting fatalities were 70% less likely to occur compared to the periods before and after the ban. This week, President Biden renewed his call on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban, but the GOP will not allow that to happen.
In the absence of Congressional action, state legislators around the country can look to the Commonwealth as a model of what might work for their states; I am proud of this letter that I co-authored with Speaker Mariano last year and was signed by 131 legislators. It is an open letter to other state legislatures to join Massachusetts in common-sense gun laws which was sent across the country, but only the Boston Globe picked it up. If you know people in other states, please encourage them to reach out to their state legislators and share this letter with them.
Another part of how we combat this violence is by building community resilience. I know that there are many organizations and coalitions doing this work every day. These are some that I have worked with:
- Louis D. Brown Peace Institute: ldbpeaceinstitute.org
- Cambridge Community Center: cambridgecc.org
- UTEC: utecinc.org
- Roca: rocainc.org
- Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House: margaretfullerhouse.org
In addition, these groups are working diligently to strengthen gun safety laws:
- The Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence: mapreventgunviolence.org
- Stop Handgun Violence: stophandgunviolence.org
- Moms Demand Action: momsdemandaction.org
- Everytown for Gun Safety: everytown.org
Public Health Updates
Insurance Coverage Ending for Free COVID Tests at Pharmacies
When the public health emergency ends on May 11, insurance companies will no longer be required to provide free at-home COVID tests. As a reminder, insurers are currently required to cover up to eight free tests each month per insured person. If you have not yet picked up your tests for March, I suggest that you get to the pharmacy today if possible. You can then get another set of free tests in April and finally during the first week of May.
Report Your At-Home COVID Test Results with Make My Test Count
Individuals who take a COVID-19 at-home test can report their test result anonymously at MakeMyTestCount.org, a new website from the National Institutes of Health. The site does not ask for personal information such as name, date of birth, or street address, only general information such as age and ZIP code. Data collected through MakeMyTestCount is de-identified and sent to the same public health systems that currently receive COVID-19 test results from laboratories and doctors’ offices. Learn more at bit.ly/3DjS46f.
Governor Healey Signs Legislature’s $389 Million Supplemental Budget
On Wednesday, Governor Healey signed the Legislature’s $388.7 million supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2023. The budget includes the following:
- $68 million for Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) grants to stabilize the state’s child care providers through the end of the fiscal year.
- $130 million to create an offramp from the federal extra Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- $85 million for the state’s Emergency Assistance Family Shelters
- $740 million to prevent interruptions to core state capital programs that support housing and economic development across the Commonwealth.
- $21.9 million to support schools through the end of the 2023-2024 school year to support communities experiencing a large influx of families with school-aged children due to state shelter placements.
- $15.7 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition
- $1.25 million for family and reproductive health services,
- Including a $1 million public awareness campaign focused on the dangers of crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy resource centers.
Learn more at bit.ly/3KnCp9V
State Leaders Commit to Continuing Universal Free School Meals
I would like to thank Speaker Mariano for his commitment to making free school meals permanent across the Commonwealth in the FY24 House budget and Governor Healey for including an extension of universal free school meals in her FY24 budget proposal. I look forward to my colleagues in the Senate taking this up next. Learn more at bit.ly/40MVwzC.
Free COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics Every Wednesday
The Cambridge Public Health Department is offering free COVID-19 and flu vaccines to adults and children (age 5+) every Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. at 119 Windsor Street, second floor.
- Vaccine Clinic Dates: Every Wednesday from Feb. 8–June 14.
- Appointments are required. You can register online at bit.ly/40bMk8C. If you have questions or want help making an appointment, call 617-933-0797.
- People age 5 and older can receive their first dose, second dose, or bivalent booster of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
- Flu vaccines will be available for adults and children (age 6 months and older), while supplies last. High-dose flu vaccines will also be available.
- No ID, Social Security Number, or health insurance is needed for the free vaccines.
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.
A Glimpse at the Past Two Weeks
Here is a glimpse of some of the work I've been doing over the past week and a half in addition to working with Public Health Committee staff to prepare for hearings on the hundreds of public health-related bills that have been filed by my colleagues and with legislative staff on bills that I have filed. We are also all preparing for the House budget debate in late April.
Visiting the new Horizons for Homeless Children center
Touring Philips North America’s new Cambridge headquarters
Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers rally for a fair raise
Lift Our Kids Coalition Mini Lobby Day at the State House
Cambridge Forum discussion of Tracy Kidder’s new book Rough Sleepers on Dr. Jim O'Connell's urgent mission to bring healing to homeless people
Cambridge Community Iftar. Ramadan Mubarak!
Boston25 Special on Youth Mental Health
You may have seen my interview with Kerry Kavanaugh from Boston25 about addressing the behavioral health needs of children and adolescents who are in the care of state agencies. The station just aired Kerry’s full 20-minute special on youth mental health in Massachusetts, which you can view at bit.ly/42QmGaN. I appreciate Kerry’s ongoing commitment to bringing attention to the youth mental health crisis and to amplifying the voices of young people who are struggling.
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.