I am writing to you today with legislative, Cambridge, and public health updates. I am also excited to welcome two interns to my office for the semester.
Katarina is a senior at Simmons University in Boston studying Political Science and Economics with a minor in Public Policy. Upon graduation, Katarina hopes to pursue her Master's in Public Policy and gain expertise in her area of interest, gender equity policy. She is excited about the opportunity to work in Representative Decker's office to learn more about the policy process and how to effect positive change.
Joel is a junior at Tufts University studying Political Science and Community Health with a minor in Entrepreneurship. He has strong passions for bridging the connection between current legislation and public health, while focusing on strengthening forms of communication with our Massachusetts constituents. Joel’s excited to bring his experience in leadership and advocacy to the office!
Table of Contents
- Legislative Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- Public Health Updates
- A Glimpse at the Past Week
- Mental Health Services and Resources
Joint Rule 10
As you may know, the Joint Rule 10 deadline was on Wednesday, February 7th, the date by which committees report on the fate of bills in their charge. As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, some bills may be granted extensions if committees require additional time to review. Below is a snapshot of some of the bills that I have filed this session which have received a favorable report. I look forward to advancing these bills through the legislature:
- Joint Committee on Children, Families, Persons with Disabilities
- An Act to lift kids out of deep poverty (H.144)
- An Act improving emergency housing assistance for children and families experiencing homelessness (H.145)
- An Act ensuring access to behavioral health services for children involved with state agencies (H.146)
- An Act providing immediate childcare assistance to homeless families (H.147)
- Joint Committee on Education
- An Act enhancing learning in the early school years through a ban on school exclusion in pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade (H.453)
- An Act to expand access to family, friend, and neighbor-provided childcare (H.456)
- Joint Committee on Financial Services
- An Act relative to access to care for serious mental illness (H.984)
- An Act increasing access to postpartum home visiting services (H.985)
- An Act relative to telehealth and digital equity for patients (H.986)
- An Act for supportive care for serious mental illness (H.989)
- An Act relative to removing barriers to non-opioid pain management (H.990)
- An Act to expand the doula workforce (H.1154)
- Joint Committee on the Judiciary
- An Act requiring the relocation of the Cambridge District Court (H.1459)
- Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development
- An Act relative to clean energy workforce standards and accountability (H.1864)
- An Act relative to a just transition to clean energy (H.1865)
- Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery
- An Act relative to preventing overdose deaths and increasing access to treatment (H.1981)
- Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government
- An Act relative to the fair housing ordinance of the city of Cambridge (H.4234)
- Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight
- An Act authorizing project labor agreements (H.3012
- An Act relative to gender identity on Massachusetts identification (H.3017
- An Act authorizing the commissioner of capital asset management and maintenance to convey a certain parcel of land to the city of Cambridge (H.4129)
- Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy
- An Act relative to healthy and sustainable schools (H.3691)
- Joint Committee on Public Health
- An Act relative to protecting public health and reducing health care costs (H.3622)
- An Act relative to autopsy reports by the medical examiner (H.3623)
- An Act relative to videotaping, audiotaping and photographing persons receiving medical treatment (H.3625)
- An Act to improve access to breastfeeding care (H.3626)
- An Act to restrict the use of polystyrene (H.3627)
- An Act relative to clinical laboratories (H.3628)
- An Act relative to the prescription monitoring program (H.3629)
- An Act relative to the Massachusetts maternal mortality and morbidity review committee (H.3630)
Please click here if you would like to see a summary of each of the bills listed above.
Red Line Closures — February 5th through February 14th
As you may have already seen on my Instagram and fliers around Red Line Stations, the stations between Alewife and Park St. will be experiencing closures between Monday, February 5th, and Wednesday, February 14th. Stations between Alewife and Harvard will be closed for the entire duration, and the closure will be extended for night work each night (starting at 8:45 pm) between Alewife and Park St. Shuttle buses will be in service to help commuters throughout the closures.
You can see this visually in the MBTA graphic below:
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 Asian American Assoc. Lunar New Year Celebration
The Chinese American Association of Cambridge (CAAC) is having its 5th annual Lunar New Year celebration. The event is taking place on Sunday, February 11th from 12:30 PM – 4:30 PM at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. There will be a culture fair, a performance, free Chinese snacks, and calligraphy.
Public Health Updates
Potential Breakthrough in CTE Diagnosis Protocol
Researchers at Boston University have made a significant breakthrough in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) research. CTE is a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated head injuries, particularly common in football players. Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed through a neuropathological analysis conducted after someone has already passed away. The researchers found a strong correlation between higher p-tau levels and more severe neurological CTE symptoms such as memory loss and emotional control issues. This breakthrough may pave the way for a checklist of symptoms to diagnose CTE in living patients and the development of diagnostic brain scans, enabling more precise treatments once a diagnosis is confirmed. Further studies on specific CTE symptoms are expected to be released later this summer.
Advances Made in Developing New Dengue Fever Vaccine
The Butantan Institute in São Paulo, Brazil, has developed a single-dose dengue vaccine, Butantan-DV, with a demonstrated effectiveness of almost 80% in preventing symptomatic infection, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The vaccine demonstrated safety and effectiveness across all age groups and in individuals with or without a prior dengue virus infection. The vaccine, considered cost-effective and easier to administer compared to existing options, could significantly help strained public health systems if approved. Currently, the dengue vaccine is only available for children 9-16 years old with a confirmed dengue fever infection. With the World Health Organization reporting a ten-fold surge of dengue fever globally since 2000, developing an effective dengue vaccine for people of all ages is crucial.
Patients Face Longer Wait Times in Hospital ER Departments in Boston
Boston’s largest hospitals are amongst those with the longest delays for emergency department care. Most notable is Massachusetts General Hospital, where 20% of the 84,000 patients treated in 2022 spent over 12 hours in the emergency room, and 16% of patients at Brigham and Women’s Hospital also had wait times more than 12 hours, according to the most recent data obtained on excessive lengths of stay in Massachusetts hospital emergency departments from the Center for Health Information and Analysis. Statewide data shows the number of patients spending 12 hours or longer in emergency room departments increased from 4% in 2019 to 6% in 2023, and wait times.
Research Finds Preventative Care Visits Still Below Pre-Pandemic Levels
The pandemic has had enduring negative effects on public health, particularly in the realm of preventative health screenings and wellness visits, according to a study by investigators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The research revealed a decline in outpatient wellness visits in 2021, with lower screening rates for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and common cancers compared to pre-pandemic levels. Disparities in access to these services were observed among racial and ethnic groups. The study emphasizes the potential long-term consequences of disruptions in preventive health screenings, urging concerted efforts to address these issues. Read more about these findings here.
A Glimpse at the Past Week
On Wednesday, I spoke at the MASSCAP legislative briefing with my friend and colleague Senator Sal DiDomenico. It has always been important to me to talk about my lived experience, which fuels my advocacy in addressing the roots of poverty while trying to alleviate the struggles families in poverty experience. MASSCAP represents our community anti-poverty organizations like Cambridge CEOC who provide important services and resources to my family and many across our community.
Also on Wednesday, constituents and advocates from both Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) and Citizens for Juvenile Justice (CfJJ) stopped by my office. GBLS provides free civil legal services to low-income people, people with disabilities, and elderly people in the Greater Boston area, including Cambridge. Pictured with me are Todd Kaplan, Senior Attorney in the Consumer Rights Unit, and Michele Oyie, a Cambridge advocate and constituent.
CfJJ works to advocate for statewide reform that reimagines the juvenile justice system and other youth-serving systems Pictured above with me is Rebecca Pries, a board member of CfJJ and the current Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Alliance for Juvenile Court Clinics. Rebecca has spent her nearly 40-year career as the Executive Director of Adolescent Consultation Services (ACS), which provides a range of diagnostic and therapeutic services for high-risk, court-involved youth and their families.
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.
De Novo Center for Justice and Healing
De Novo is a Cambridge-based nonprofit that provides free civil legal assistance and affordable psychological counseling to people with low incomes. You can learn more about their services at denovo.org.
As always, please contact me with questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov.