I am writing to you today with public health, Cambridge, and legislative updates. Wishing you a safe and healthy Thanksgiving holiday. We will not be sending out a newsletter next week.
Table of Contents
- Legislative Updates
- Public Health Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- A Glimpse at the Past Week
- Mental Health Services and Resources
On Wednesday, the House voted to pass An Act to improve quality and oversight of long-term care (H.4193). This bill seeks to codify several of the recommendations made by the 2020 Nursing Facility Task Force, and is the first post-pandemic comprehensive long-term care reform package. I was proud to vote alongside my colleagues to pass much-needed comprehensive reforms to support and expand the workforce, enhance oversight of facilities, and ensure greater access, all while prioritizing quality of care. Major provisions of the bill include:
- Establishing a Long-Term Care Workforce and Capital Fund;
- Updating licensure requirements and expanding oversight into the management of long-term care facilities;
- Promulgating regulations that support the development of Small House Nursing Homes;
- Requiring outbreak response planning and enhanced infectious disease training for employees;
- Requiring MassHealth to update rate setting protocol and to study the cost and feasibility of changes to its eligibility requirements for long-term care;
- Streamlining prior authorization forms to expedite transitions from acute care facilities to post-acute care facilities; and
- Establishing a Hospital Throughput Task Force to examine hospital discharge planning and case management practices, among other issues.
You can read more about the far-reaching impacts of the bill here.
Updates on bills I filed this session
H.1457 was heard by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary this week:
- An Act relative to determining the best interest of children in probate & family court (H.1457) would require the rights of each parent to be equal absent misconduct and child welfare to determine the distribution of responsibility. It would ensure the court is guided by the best interest of the child and considers the relationship between the parent and child and the child’s adjustment to their school community and home, including any siblings or other household members. The bill states the determination of parental responsibilities and parenting plan will be guided by the child’s best interest, including well-being, safety, and impact of living conditions.
Public Health Updates
Healey-Driscoll Administration Unveils Two Reports on Maternal Health Care and Better Access to Services in MA
In response to Governor Healey’s order of a review of maternal health care across the state and medical services in northern Worcester County following the closure of a Leominister hospital maternity unit in September, the Healey-Driscoll Administration has released two comprehensive reports on Wednesday in an effort to develop actionable recommendations addressing reasonable access and availability of high quality, essential health services in Massachusetts communities. The Review of Maternal Health Services determined that Massachusetts does not have any maternal services deserts, however there are areas for improvement to increase access to services including data collection, regulatory changes, and targeted investments. The Review of Essential Services in the North Worcester County Area reveals limited inpatient and outpatient mental health care and substance use disorder facilities, transportation and distance difficulties, and general workforce challenges for staffing facilities in the area. In addition, the report includes recommendations for improved community engagement, more innovative service delivery, workforce investments and more. Read more about both reports here.
DPH Calls for Steps to Prevent Work-Related Asthma Death
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) calls for enhanced worker health and safety measures in the cannabis industry following the death of a Holyoke Cannabis facility worker triggered by cannabis dust back in January of 2022. DPH released an investigative report, calling on the cannabis industry to take additional critical steps to prevent work-related asthma and sent a bulletin to health care providers in the Commonwealth, urging vigilance in identifying work-related asthma among workers in that industry and to report such cases to the state. These actions were taken after the CDC's published results of an investigation conducted by DPH and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), confirming that the first death attributed to occupational asthma in a U.S. cannabis production worker occurred in Massachusetts. While this is the only known asthma death in the US cannabis industry, other cases of non-fatal respiratory disease among Massachusetts workers in that industry have been reported.
FDA Authorizes First Home-based Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Test
On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Simple 2 Test, the first ever FDA-approved home test for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Unlike previous STI tests, users do not need a prescription; they can activate the test online, fill out a health questionnaire, collect a sample using the Simple 2 collection kit, and send it in for evaluation. Test results are delivered online, and if positive or invalid, a healthcare provider follows up. This development is seen as an important milestone in public health, providing individuals with more accessible information about their health from the privacy of their homes. The approval aims to address the increasing spread of gonorrhea and chlamydia, both treatable with antibiotics. Since 2021, there have been over 700,000 cases of gonorrhea reported in the U.S., marking a 118% increase since 2009. Cases of chlamydia have also been rising, with over 1.6 million cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2021 alone.
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.
A Glimpse at the Past Week
Wednesday’s Public Health Committee Hearing focused on bills related to children’s health. It was an emotionally moving day listening to Massachusetts parents testify — in some cases — in honor of children they had lost. I know that in some cases folks enter advocacy communities not out of choice but out of circumstance, and appreciate everyone who came to share their story this week.
On Wednesday afternoon, I spoke in support of an amendment filed by Leader Frank Moran of Lawrence that would create a career ladder for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) in nursing homes to receive training and supervision to become Certified Medication Aides (CMAs) and distribute medications to patients. The amendment was originally filed as a bill by Representative Brian Murray of Milford.
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.