I am writing to you today with public health, Cambridge, and legislative updates.
Table of Contents
- Legislative Updates
- Public Health Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- Recent Press
- A Glimpse at the Past Week
- Mental Health Services and Resources
Massachusetts House of Representatives Passes a FY23 Closeout Supplemental Budget
On Wednesday, the House voted to pass a $2.8 billion supplemental budget to close the books on the FY23 fiscal year. Included within the budget is $250 million to support Massachusetts’ response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis of families seeking emergency assistance. The $250 million includes $50 million that is contingent upon the Administration identifying a state-funded overflow emergency shelter site for families who have been waitlisted as a result of the emergency regulations issued by the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities on October 31, 2023, which set a cap of 7,500 families participating in the program.
I am grateful for Speaker Ron Mariano and Chair Aaron Michlewitz’s leadership in crafting a supplemental budget that addresses unhoused families seeking emergency assistance. The appropriation and language centers families with children who will not have a safe place to sleep once the Administration begins to place families on a waitlist. The appropriation provides additional funding and requires the Administration to create an overflow site for families and pregnant people placed on a waitlist for emergency shelter to avoid having them sleep outside as they wait for temporary housing. This is an unprecedented moment of time trying to balance and protect children coming in from out of state and families who live in our state who are also seeking emergency shelter. Speaker Mariano continues to lead with principled compassion that calls on our state to provide relief for an unprecedented humanitarian crisis addressing the reality of all children and their families. We also continue to call on President Biden and our Congressional delegation to appropriate additional funding to help us meet the growing demands for families who have migrated to the US and are coming to Massachusetts.
The supplemental budget also includes funding for MassHealth caseload adjustments, collective bargaining agreements for state employees, and additional flood relief for municipalities, among many other provisions.
Updates on bills I filed this session
If you have been following my legislative work, you know that last year the House and the Senate adopted an omnibus bill on mental health for adults and adolescents. I was fortunate to work with Chair Adrian Madaro, who authored the House bill, to include much of the THRIVE ACT and several additional bills I filed to expand support and reduce barriers for mental health services in schools and address barriers in our healthcare system. This legislative session, I continue that work with a bill that would establish an interagency council that includes the Departments of Education, Mental Health and Public Health to better coordinate the approach to behavioral health in schools.
- An Act establishing a child and adolescent behavioral health implementation coordinating council (H.1979) would require school districts to develop and implement a comprehensive school-based behavioral health system within a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) framework within three years. It creates a School-Based Behavioral Health Implementation Coordinating Council that will develop a plan for rapid statewide implementation of comprehensive school based behavioral health to provide equitable access in each school district.
Public Health Updates
Active Tuberculosis Case Identified in UMass Boston Community
Health officials are conducting contact tracing due to an active case of tuberculosis (TB) in a patient linked to the University of Massachusetts Boston this week. The Boston Public Health Commission is collaborating with the university and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to address the situation. Tuberculosis is treatable, and they advise UMass Boston community members to contact healthcare providers or student health services if they are concerned about exposure.
New Study Reveals Lasting Impact of Gun Violence on Child and Adolescent Survivors of Firearm Injuries
In 2020, firearm injuries became the leading cause of death in the U.S. among children and teens than any other type of injury or illness. Although there are twice as many survivors of these firearm injuries, national data on non-fatal gunshot wounds from gun violence is not collected by the U.S. government, with little research quantifying their effects, especially on children. Researchers at Harvard University and Mass General Hospital tackled this issue, investigating the clinical and economic impact of firearm injuries in a new study published in Health Affairs on Monday, using commercial insurance to map the consequences for child and adolescent survivors. The comprehensive study found that gun violence causes a rippling effect. Just within the first year of their firearm injury, child and adolescent survivors experienced a 117% increase in pain disorders, a 68% increase in psychiatric disorders, and a 144% increase in substance use disorders compared to those who did not experience firearm injuries.
Vaccinations Ahead of the Holiday Season
With the upcoming holiday season and as the weather gets colder, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health urges residents to get vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published its recommendations on the annual flu shot, recommending routine annual influenza vaccination for all persons aged ≥ 6 months who do not have contraindications. Everyone aged 6 months and older are also recommended to receive an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against serious illness from COVID-19. Find a vaccine location near you at mass.gov/CovidVaccine. Many people, including pregnant people, newborns, and many people aged 60 and older are eligible for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccination this year. Learn more about the ways to protect yourself and others from getting sick, through testing, treatment, and other preventative measures here.
Over a Dozen AGs Call Out Pulse Oximeter Inaccuracies in FDA Letter
Twenty-five Attorneys General (AGs), including Massachusetts’ AG Andrea Campbell, signed and sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging them to take swift and decisive action regarding racial disparities in how well pulse oximeters work on people with darker skin tones and outlining proposed actions for the FDA to take in this pursuit. Pulse oximeters are regularly used to measure the oxygen level in a patient’s blood, providing a crucial diagnostic indicator for medical professionals. These devices are placed on the patient’s fingertip and use light beams to estimate blood oxygen levels. However, research has found that pulse oximeters tend to overestimate the oxygenation of patients with darker skin tones, resulting in worse health outcomes due to delayed treatment, diagnosis, and hospital admission than patients with lighter skin tones.
American Cancer Society Updates Guidelines for Lung Cancer Screening
In an effort to reduce the number of deaths from lung cancer, the overall leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., the American Cancer Society (ACS) updated its guidelines for lung cancer screening on Wednesday. The new recommendations expand eligibility for annual screening which, according to the ACS, will lead to nearly 5 million more people becoming eligible for lung cancer screening each year to detect lung cancer early. In its updated guidelines, the ACS recommends annual lung cancer screening for current and former smokers aged 50 to 80 years and also qualifies screening for anyone with at least a 20 pack-year smoking history.
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.
Cambridge Veterans Day Observance Event
The City of Cambridge Department of Veterans Services will host a Veterans Day Observance event on Saturday, November 11 from 11 AM-12 PM near the Civil War monument at the Cambridge Common.
Sam Drysdale, State House News Service
Among the Climate Job Massachusetts Action coalition's priorities, a Rep. Marjorie Decker and Sen. Paul Feeney bill (H 1864 / S 1189) would require state-funded or subsidized projects to prove they've previously contracted with labor organizations and specify whether the developer and its contractors participate in apprenticeship programs. The proposal would also require project developers to submit proof of a wage bond in an amount equal to the aggregate of one year's gross wages for all workers.
Another Decker and Feeney bill dubbed the "just transition" bill (H 1865 / S 1179) would require gas companies to submit a plan, which must be approved by the state, to address workforce development, maintenance and attrition over the court of the transition to net zero transitions.
"Each of these bills creates a place of accountability," Decker said. "When we're looking at state contracts, particularly when we're looking at state-leased land or owned-land, we have the ability to always say: Where's labor in this? How are we centering who's getting lost in this policy change? Are we losing workers? Are workers losing wages, losing job opportunities?"
A Glimpse at the Past Week
On Monday, I hosted advocates from the Children’s Mental Health Campaign and held a roundtable to discuss the impacts of a bill I filed with them, An Act establishing a child and adolescent behavioral health implementation coordinating council (H.1979). I later testified in support of the bill at the Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery Committee hearing.
On Tuesday, Representative Steve Owens and I welcomed students from the Fayerweather School to the State House. The students had a chance to tour the building and ask us questions about the legislative process.
On Wednesday, I was thrilled to gather with the Healthy Families Tax Credits Coalition to celebrate our work together to continue successfully expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child and Dependent Tax Credit (CDTC) in the recent tax package that the Legislature passed. This is my fifth term filing an EITC bill, and we have seen many increases and improvements. When I first filed a bill to increase the EITC, our state had one of the lowest tax credits in the nation at 15%. We have now successfully increased it three times: to 23%, 30%, and now 40%. The CDTC combines two separate tax credits for children and dependents into a single credit, and lifts the current cap on how many dependents a filer can claim — which will greatly benefit families with more than two dependents. The CDTC will also increase the value of the credits up to $440 per child and dependent in the FY25 tax season. This expanded credit will benefit more than 565,000 families.
Thank you to my co-filers Senator Sal DiDomenico and to Representative Andy Vargas. I couldn't ask for better partners.
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: 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: massoverdosehelpline.org, or access it by calling 800-972-0590.
As always, please contact me with questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov.