I am writing to you today with public health, Cambridge, and legislative updates.
Table of Contents
- Public Health Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- Legislative Updates
- A Glimpse at the Past Week
- Mental Health Services and Resources
Public Health Updates
DPH Hosting Maternal Health Public Listening Sessions
On behalf of the Healey-Driscoll Administration and in response to the Governor Healey’s call for a statewide review of access to quality maternal health services, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) will be hosting virtual and in-person public listening sessions to hear directly from people who have experienced difficulty with the state’s maternal health system in order to learn, make recommendations to improve services, and help more people give birth safely in Massachusetts. With recent closures of birth facilities in communities across the Commonwealth from Holyoke to Leominster to Beverly, these public listening sessions are residents’ opportunity to provide feedback on their own experiences with our maternal health system. Data from these sessions will be recorded and incorporated into a report to the Governor. The first listening session will be held today in Brockton from 6pm to 7:30pm. Interested participants can register for virtual sessions or sign up to speak and submit written testimony using this link: forms.office.com/g/HKQGAmMmrW.
BMC Launches Pilot Program to Help Patients Pay for Their Electricity
Boston Medical Center Health System (BMCHS) has launched the first-of-its-kind Clean Power Prescription program, allowing BMC healthcare providers to prescribe patients reduced utility bills through renewable energy. The program uses energy credits, generated from metered solar panels on BMC's administrative building that converts clean energy into credits through a federal tax credit leveraged from the Inflation Reduction Act, to lower patients' electric bills. During the initial phase, the prescription program will be available to 80 households with patients who are Eversource electric customers and are treated in BMC's Complex Care Management program, which focuses on patients who need more hospital care, have a chronic condition, and are in the health system’s Medicaid program. Eligible patients are expected to receive $50 monthly credits, saving households about $600 annually. This initiative aligns with BMC's commitment to community health and environmental responsibility and helps to address health related social needs. Read more information about the Clean Power Prescription program here.
Massachusetts Public Health Council Approves Regulation to Allow Pharmacists to Dispense Hormonal Contraceptives
In a move to enhance access to reproductive health care, Massachusetts public health officials voted to grant pharmacists the authority to directly dispense hormonal contraceptives to patients. The state Public Health Council approved updated regulations on an emergency basis to allow pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraceptive patches and oral contraceptives to individuals, regardless of whether their primary or reproductive care providers have previously prescribed the medication. I am proud that this provision from An Act expanding protections for reproductive rights, which I introduced and was signed into law in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned, was approved.
Flu and COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic
The Cambridge Public Health Department and Cambridge Health Alliance will be hosting flu and COVID-19 vaccine clinics throughout October, offering residents — both children and adults — the opportunity to access vaccines. On Saturday, October 21, the clinic will be held at King Open School (860 Cambridge Street) from 10am to 4:30pm. More information can be found here.
Public Health Helpline Supports Residents with COVID-19
The Cambridge Public Health Department manages a hotline to provide residents with COVID-19 additional support. 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. Learn more about this service here.
City Offering Free At-Home COVID Tests
The Cambridge Public Health Department, in partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), 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. The at-home COVID test expiration date can be checked here.
On Wednesday, the House voted to pass H.4135, An Act modernizing firearm laws. I am grateful for Speaker Ron Mariano, Judiciary Committee Chair Michael Day, and Ways & Means Committee Chair Aaron Michlewitz for their leadership on this issue, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Bruen ruling. The omnibus package includes provisions from several bills I have filed over the years. It also includes an amendment I filed to add the examination and evaluation of services for survivors of homicide victims in fostering healing and breaking the cycle of violence in the purview of a special legislative commission established in H.4135. I am proud to see them included in this comprehensive and lifesaving piece of legislation. I will be sending a full analysis of the bill, as well as the speech I delivered on the House floor in support of it, in a separate email this week.
State House hearings on the thousands of bills filed this session continue to be in full swing, and three of the bills I filed were heard this week.
- An Act enhancing learning in the early school years through a ban on school exclusion in pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade (H.453) prohibits the expulsion or suspension of students from prekindergarten through the fifth grade, and as an alternative, encourages the implementation of best practice responses to behavioral issues such as mediation; conflict resolution; restorative justice; and collaborative problem solving.
- An Act to expand access to family, friend, and neighbor-provided childcare (H.456) would increase state support for family, friend, and neighbor-provided (FFN) childcare by allowing parents to use vouchers to pay for FFN care, raising FFN provider pay up to the state minimum wage, and creating a state FFN Advisory Council.
- An Act increasing access to postpartum home visiting services (H.985) expands the universal postpartum home visiting program administered by the Department of Public Health statewide and requires MassHealth and private insurance to cover the program’s services.
A Glimpse at the Past Week
I was happy to join students from Professor Larry Bailis’s Advocacy, Protest, and Community Organizing class at Brandeis’ Heller School to talk to them about my career in elected office and answer questions.
It was great to meet with a delegation of five professional women from local governments across Armenia, whom I hosted on a visit to the State House with the Cambridge-Yerevan Sister City Association (CYSCA). Cambridge has a long history of supporting CYSCA. It was a thoughtful conversation about serving in government and being mindful of the plight of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Today’s Public Health Committee Hearing featured one bill focusing on end of life options. It was an emotionally moving day listening to people of Massachusetts share their hopes and fears regarding end of life options.
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
As always, please contact me with questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov.