I write to you today with public health and legislative updates along with a glimpse of some of my work over the past few weeks.
Table of Contents
- Scholarship Opportunity for Individuals in Long-Term Recovery
- State Updates
- Public Health Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- A Glimpse at the Past Few Weeks
- Mental Health Services and Resources
Scholarship Opportunity for Individuals in Long-Term Recovery
The Stephenie Jesi Scholarships for Individuals in Long-Term Recovery are in loving memory of Stephenie Jesi. On December 13, 2015, at the age of 33, Stephenie passed away after a long and courageous battle with substance use disorder (SUD). She was a participant in the Gloucester Angel Program (PAARI).
Stephenie was passionate about helping her friends who were experiencing the same barriers that she was, in fighting the disease of SUD. In honor of her selfless nature and spirit of giving, her family wants to keep her spirit alive by helping others who are struggling.
Stephanie's family will choose three deserving individuals who have been in long term recovery for 3 or more years to receive a $1,000 scholarship. In an effort to remove barriers to support recovery, these scholarships can be used for education, housing, transportation, childcare or debt relief. The scholarship recipients will be announced at PAARI's 8th Anniversary Party on June 6, 2023. Funds will be directly paid to the recipient’s needs. The selection committee includes PAARI's Executive Board, including Mrs. Cheryl Jesi-Marlow and Mr. Steve Jesi.
- Be in long-term recovery for 3+ years.
- Be able to attend and share their personal story at PAARI's 8th Anniversary Party (either in-person in Boston, MA or virtually via Zoom).
- Be available to attend future PAARI anniversary parties to share an update on their recovery (either in-person in Boston, MA or virtually via Zoom).
Fill out this form to be considered or nominate another individual: bit.ly/3VeeFca. Responses are due by May 20, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. EST.
If you have any questions, contact Isabella at firstname.lastname@example.org.
House Approves FY24 Budget
In case you missed last week’s update, here is what was adopted in the House FY24 state budget from amendments that I filed:
- $100,000 for the Cambridge Community Center
- $1 million for the Cambridge Birth Center
- $1 million for the Cambridge Health Alliance dental center
- $600,000 for the Massachusetts Alliance of YWCAs
- $75,000 for the statewide children’s behavioral health technical assistance center
- $200,000 for Cradles to Crayons
- Language requiring the Chief Medical Examiner to review and approve the findings and report of the medical examiner performing the autopsy of a child under age 2 and any change to the autopsy report.
- Language establishing a maternal mortality and morbidity review committee of no more than 25 members within the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to review maternal deaths, study the incidence of pregnancy complications, make recommendations to improve maternal outcomes, and eliminate preventable maternal death. This aligns with recommendations in the Racial Inequities in Maternal Health Commission Report.
Other highlights of the FY24 House budget include:
- $1 billion in anticipated Fair Share revenue, split evenly between education and transportation initiatives
- $490 million for Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) grants
- $20 million to provide free community college to students over the age of 25 to complete their education and training (MassReconnect)
- $31 million for summer jobs for at-risk youth
- $181 million for Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) and eviction protections for renters with pending applications for emergency rental assistance
- $19.81 billion for MassHealth
- $1 million for the acquisition of abortion medication, such as Mifepristone
- $315.3 million for the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative
- $208.2 million for the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS)
- $25 million for Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) for the continued development of the clean energy industry in the Commonwealth
- Free phone calls between incarcerated individuals and their loved ones, without a cap on the number of minutes or calls
I am grateful to Speaker Mariano, Chair Michlewitz, and my colleagues for their work on this budget, which responds to the needs of residents and makes targeted investments that provide support for families across the Commonwealth. The Senate will consider its FY24 budget this month.
Public Health Updates
FDA Approves United States’ First-Ever RSV Vaccine
The FDA recently approved GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine against the respiratory syncytial virus, making it the first authorized RSV shot in the U.S. GSK's vaccine is approved for adults aged 60 and older, a population that is particularly vulnerable to RSV. The disease causes up to 10,000 deaths and as many as 160,000 hospitalizations for people 65 and up per year, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Learn more at bit.ly/41cGfb7.
Massachusetts Funds Extra SNAP Payments
Due to federal action, extra COVID SNAP benefits ended on 3/2/2023. However, Massachusetts households will receive state-funded extra SNAP payments on April 7, May 2, and June 2, 2023, following Governor Healey’s signing of the Legislature’s supplemental budget that created an off-ramp from the extra federal COVID SNAP benefits. Visit Mass.gov/ExtraCOVIDSNAP to learn more.
MassHealth Redetermination Underway
The MassHealth eligibility redetermination process began on April 1. Over the next 12 months, 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.
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 gotten tests yet this month, there are only a few days remaining to do so.
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.
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 Few Weeks
Here is a glimpse of some of the work I've been doing over the past few weeks in addition to working with my colleagues in the House on the FY24 budget and preparing for the Public Health Committee's first legislative hearing of the session.
A Cradles to Crayons legislative briefing on clothing insecurity that I hosted at the State House with CEO and founder Lynn Margherio, where we were joined by Representatives Donato, Howard, Wong, and Kerans (not pictured).
Cambridge School Committee Member Ayesha Wilson, my nominee for a 2023 Black Excellence on the Hill award.
I organized an overview briefing for Public Health Committee members at the Boston University School of Public Health.
The Public Health Committee held its first hybrid legislative hearing.
Members of the Massachusetts State Legislature gathered with Governor Maura Healey to recognize Denim Day, a day of action held annually around the world to renew our collective commitment to exposing harmful behaviors and attitudes surrounding sexual violence, and to affirm our support for survivors.
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.