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Thursday, July 4th Public Health and Legislative Updates

Dear friends,


I am writing to you today with legislative, public health, and Cambridge updates. 


For several years now, I've had the pleasure of organizing our community to come together and celebrate this important day. This year, I again encourage us all to take a moment to reflect on the true significance of the 4th of July and what it means to formerly enslaved people,  as articulated by Frederick Douglass in his speech "What to the Slave is the 4th of July?" Let's celebrate and contemplate the deeper meaning of this occasion together.


Wishing you all a safe and joyful 4th of July!


Table of Contents

  • Legislative Updates

  • Public Health Updates

  • A Glimpse at the Past Week

  • Cambridge Updates

  • Services and Resources

 

Legislative Updates 

House Passes An Act relative to strengthening Massachusetts’ economic leadership (H.4789)

Last week, I was proud to vote alongside my colleagues to pass an economic development bill that will create important and much-needed opportunities for all Massachusetts residents to live, work, and thrive here. The legislation contains a range of investments and policy initiatives that aim to bolster support for workers and businesses, particularly in life sciences and clean energy technology. Among the major provisions of this legislation are: 

  • $500 million for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center to provide grants and loans in order to grow the life sciences industry in Massachusetts

  • $400 million for MassWorks public infrastructure grants to municipalities

  • $200 million for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) to support the research and commercialization of climate technology across the state

  • $200 million for the MassCEC to invest in research, and in the implementation of offshore wind infrastructure


This bill also includes language from a bill I filed that enables the Commonwealth, municipalities, or other public awarding authorities to require project labor agreements at their discretion, in the interest of the public. You can watch my floor speech here starting at 45:08. 

 

Public Health Updates

Boston DPH Warns of Massachusetts Measles Exposure at Multiple Locations

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) released a statement warning the public about a potential measles exposure on Saturday, June 22. According to the report, an infectious individual traveled on the Dartmouth Coach Line from Hanover, NH, to Boston Logan Airport and departed on flight KLM6016 to Amsterdam from Terminal E. Measles is a highly contagious viral disease with initial symptoms including a high fever, cough, red eyes, and runny nose, followed several days later by a rash spreading from the head downwards over the body. Symptoms usually appear 1-2 weeks after exposure to the measles virus, which can stay airborne for up to 2 hours. The MMR vaccine effectively prevents measles infection in children and adults. DPH urges unvaccinated people to receive a dose as quickly as possible, particularly if you are at high risk or visited one of the listed locations on Saturday, June 22. According to the DPH, individuals who are exposed to measles and who do not have immunity may be required to quarantine for up to 21 days. If you suspect you have been exposed to measles, contact your healthcare provider immediately. More information can be found here.


West Nile Virus Detected in Massachusetts Mosquitos

The Department of Public Health detected West Nile virus (WNV) in Massachusetts mosquitoes for the first time this year. The mosquito samples positive for WNV were collected from Quincy in Norfolk County in late June. State public health officials state that WNV is commonly found in local mosquito populations this time of year. At this time, no cases of WNV have been detected in Massachusetts residents. WNV is a mosquito-borne illness only transmitted to humans if an infected mosquito bites them. People of all ages can contract WNV, and most people with the disease are asymptomatic. In cases of WNV where symptoms are present, they include mild fever or flu-like symptoms. However, more severe illnesses like encephalitis or meningitis can occur in rare cases. State epidemiologists expect to identify more mosquitos carrying WNV as their populations increase throughout the summer. For more information about WNV and other mosquito-borne diseases, visit https://www.mass.gov/mosquito-borne-diseases.


 FDA Approves a New Drug to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the approval of Eli Lilly’s drug, donanemab, for people living with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia stage of Alzheimer's disease, expanding limited treatment options for Alzheimer's disease. Donanemab, sold under the brand name Kisunla, is a monoclonal antibody infusion medication administered intravenously every four weeks. It works by targeting toxic plaques in the brain called amyloid, which, in excessive buildup, may lead to memory and other issues associated with Alzheimer's disease. The effectiveness of the drug was primarily measured through the clinical dementia rating scale, which measures the cognitive and functional decline caused by dementia symptoms in patients with early stages of Alzheimer's, focusing on memory, orientation, judgment and problem-solving, community affairs, home and hobbies, and personal care. Clinical trials revealed that donanemab demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in amyloid levels. Based on a late-stage clinical trial of more than 1,700 people, donanemab slowed the progression of Alzheimer's in patients using the drug by about 35% after 18 months compared to patients who only received a placebo. It also reduced participants' risk of progressing to the next clinical stage of the disease by up to 39%. 


OSHA Proposed Rule Aims to Protect Workers from Excessive Workplace Heat

On Tuesday, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed the first national safety standard to keep workers safe from excessive heat in the workplace. The proposed rule would require employers to provide workers with shaded rest areas and water when the heat index reaches 80 degrees or higher. Employers must also identify potential heat hazards and develop an emergency response plan to address and treat heat-related illnesses. Additionally, $1 billion will be made available to hundreds of projects and programs working to mitigate climate threats like extreme heat, with 30 projects in Massachusetts set to access this funding. If finalized, the federal measure will protect an estimated 36 million U.S. workers from heat-related work injuries. The most affected workers include farmworkers, delivery and construction workers, landscapers, and indoor workers in warehouses, factories, and kitchens. Last year, the Healey administration released an updated State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan, which identifies high heat as one of the three most substantial hazards to Massachusetts - flooding from precipitation and coastal flooding from sea level rise were the other two significant hazards identified in the plan. More information about the OSHA-proposed rule and how to submit comments when the proposal is published in the Federal Register is available here.


DPH Announces Funding to Support Local 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Network Centers

Last Friday, Department of Public Health (DPH) announced it will award $8.3 million in state and federal grant funding to five community organizations to support continuing services for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Network. The funds will provide more aid to those calling the 988 Lifeline by supporting infrastructure, operational capacity, and staffing. The 988 Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers, all of which provide free and confidential emotional support to people in suicide crisis or emotional distress. The Lifeline Network provides support for veterans, Spanish speakers, LGBTQIA+ youth, and young adults and features additional accessibility services, including videophone and TTY services for the Deaf and hard of hearing, as well as translation services in over 200 languages. Crisis centers within the network are resources for people going through mental health crises. Crisis centers are available 24/7, 365 days a year, via phone, online chat, and text to provide mental health services and emotional support. Most crisis centers, where calls to the 988 Lifeline are directed, are non-profit and are staffed by trained volunteers and mental health professionals. You can learn more about the Massachusetts Lifeline Network here.

 

A Glimpse at the Past Week



I enjoyed celebrating the first Caribbean Commonwealth breakfast at the State House on Monday. I want to thank my colleague Representative Chris Worrell for partnering with the Black and Latino Caucus and the Boston Caribbean-American Association to recognize the important contributions of the Caribbean community in Massachusetts. I am honored to represent a diverse community, especially in the Riverside and Port neighborhoods, that has always had a vibrant Caribbean population that has shaped our city.

It was a joy to see Cambridge resident Nadia Chamblin-Foster honored and to see Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll celebrate her Trinidadian roots. It was also great to listen and dance to the beats of the Caribbean on the steel drums from the talented Branches Steel Orchestra. While I was in the company of many new and old faces, it was amazing to be with trailblazers and former colleagues, legislators Linda Dorcena Forry and Marie St. Fleur.



On Tuesday, I attended an award ceremony at Cambridge City Hall celebrating a $3 million award presented to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Pathways to Removing Obstacles to Affordable Housing, or PRO Housing, award is a highly competitive grant program, with over 175 applications submitted from around the country. The award will go towards expanding the housing supply and lowering housing costs by identifying and removing barriers to affordable housing production and preservation in four communities (Boston, Cambridge, Everett, and Newton).


After the ceremony, I participated in a roundtable discussion with Damson Smith, HUD General Counsel and Acting Deputy Secretary; Juan Matias, HUD Regional Administrator; Marc Draisen, Executive Director of MAPC; Cambridge City Manager Yi-An Huang; Everett City Mayor Carlo DeMaria; and MAPC staff to discuss housing reforms at the city, state, and local levels. I spoke about the need to center individuals and families who are living in affordable and subsidized housing in any and all discussions when it comes to affordable housing reform.

 

Cambridge Updates

Summer Food Program 

The Cambridge Summer Food Program provides free breakfast, lunch, and dinner to all Cambridge children, open to all residents with no ID required. Vegetarian options are available, and Recreation staff will host games and activities at Food Program locations. You can find a list of locations and more information here


Red Line Closure

Red Line service will be suspended between Alewife and Kendall/MIT from July 13-28. On weekends and evenings starting at 8:30pm until the end of service, the closure will extend to Park Street. Free shuttle buses will replace service at all stations and Bus Route 77 will be fare-free within Cambridge. 

 

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.


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.


SafeSpot Overdose Prevention Helpline

SafeSpot is a virtual spotting/overdose detection service for people who use drugs. Learn more at safe-spot.me 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.


MassLegalHelp.org is a resource to help Massachusetts residents learn about their legal rights. The website does not offer legal advice or answer individual questions but has a page about options for finding a lawyer. It does provide resources for those facing legal issues, such as a landlord refusing to make repairs, appealing the denial of SNAP benefits, and questions about getting a CORI sealed.

As always, please contact me with questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov.

 

Sincerely,  

Marjorie


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