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Thursday, May 9 Legislative and Public Health Updates

Dear friends,


I am writing to you today with public health updates.


As you may know, I’ve been delivering our weekly newsletter in this format for well over a year now. The newsletter first originated as daily Covid-19 updates during the pandemic, and it has since evolved into what you all receive now. In response to recent staff changes, we are making an adjustment to our newsletter schedule, moving the release day from Friday evenings to Thursdays moving forward. 


Table of Contents

  • Public Health Updates

  • A Glimpse at the Past Week

  • Services and Resources

 

Public Health Updates

Steward Health Care Files for Bankruptcy

Early Monday morning, Steward Health Care filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, providing it with legal protection as it restructures its debt. This bankruptcy pathway will allow all Steward hospitals, including its eight Massachusetts-based facilities, to continue operating without disruption. In a press release, Steward Health Care stated that filing for bankruptcy was “a necessary measure” to ensure it could maintain its commitment to its patients, their communities, and its employees and would make it easier to transition ownership of its facilities. Steward Health Care has agreed to sell all of its hospitals by the end of June. Steward operates the third largest hospital system in Massachusetts, employing about 16,000 people and serving hundreds of thousands of vulnerable low-income people, older adults, and people with disabilities covered by Medicare and Medicaid. The administration has been tracking developments at Steward hospitals for months, prepping for any situation arising from Steward’s financial struggles that could jeopardize patients’ access to necessary care. Last week, state officials activated an incident command center to manage the fallout from Steward’s anticipated breakup. After Steward announced its bankruptcy, the State launched a website with resources about the situation and a hotline dedicated to health care providers and patients. For more information about ongoing developments at Steward Hospitals, please visit the State’s informational website here or call the Commonwealth’s Steward Health Care Call Center at 617-468-2189 between 8am and 6pm Monday through Friday.   


American Cancer Society Launches Study to Understand Cancer Health Disparities 

This week, the American Cancer Society (ACS) began recruiting for the VOICES of Black Women study, a first of its kind study that aims to better understand what factors drive the stark health disparities in cancer outcomes. According to the ACS, the risk of dying from cancer has declined by 32% since 1991. However, racial disparities have persisted, impacting black women the most. Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with more advanced cancer and aggressive tumors and are more likely to die from cancer within five years of diagnosis than white women. The ACS hopes to enroll over 100,000 black women in the United States and follow them for the next 30 years to observe how lifestyle and societal factors, like racism, affect their risk of developing and dying due to cancer. To be eligible for the study, women must be between the ages of 25-55, cancer-free at enrollment, and reside in one of 20 states, including Massachusetts. Learn more about the VOICES of Black Women study here


Study Links Indoor Air Pollution with Childhood Asthma

A recent study from Stanford and Harvard Universities reveals that air pollution from gas and propane stoves is linked to approximately 50,000 cases of childhood asthma across the United States. The research, focusing on nitrogen dioxide emitted by these stoves, suggests that the actual impact could be much higher, potentially causing up to 200,000 asthma cases when considering other pollutants like carbon monoxide. This study also found racial disparities related to long-term exposure to indoor air pollutants, with American Indian and Alaskan Native households experiencing 60% higher exposure and Black and Hispanic households experiencing 20% higher exposure. Researchers have observed a connection between the use of gas stoves and poor indoor air quality for decades, and this study helps quantify the adverse health impacts exposure to indoor air pollutants can cause and reaffirms that low-income communities and communities of color bear the brunt of the negative health outcomes. Experts recommend increasing airflow while cooking by opening windows or venting stovetop emissions outside to reduce exposure to harmful gasses emitted by gas stoves. I am proud to have worked to strengthen an indoor air quality bill that was before my committee, which was reported out favorably and is in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.


California City Facing TB Outbreak, Declares Local Public Health Emergency 

City health officials in Long Beach, California, recently declared a local public health emergency due to a tuberculosis (TB) outbreak. At this point, 14 people who stayed at the same privately owned hotel have been diagnosed with the illness. Nine of these individuals have been hospitalized, and one has died due to TB. The Long Beach Health Department has identified about 175 people who may have been exposed to TB and has begun contacting and screening these individuals to identify cases early and better contain the outbreak. Since contact tracing efforts began, no new cases of TB have been diagnosed or reported. According to a press release issued by the Long Beach Health Department, the outbreak appears to be isolated to people with “significant barriers to care,” including those who are unhoused or housing insecure, experiencing mental health issues or substance use disorders, or have serious medical comorbidities. Those diagnosed with TB will receive care and other necessary support such as food, housing, and transportation from the Health Department. Cases of TB have been on the rise since 2020, with 9,615 active cases identified in the U.S. last year, a 16% increase over 2022. 


First Case of Powassan Virus Reported in Massachusetts 

Public health officials at the Sharon Health Department have reported the first confirmed case of Powassan virus in Massachusetts this year. Powassan virus is a rare illness transmitted through infected tick bites. There have only been 100 reported cases of Powassan virus in the U.S. over the last decade, 16 of which were in Massachusetts.  Most people infected with Powassan virus are asymptomatic; however, those who are symptomatic typically experience symptoms within a week to a month after being bitten. According to the Department of Public Health, mild symptoms of Powassan virus include fever, weakness, and headache, and more severe symptoms include meningitis, seizures, and speech difficulties. You can protect yourself from Powassan virus and other tick-borne illnesses by using insect repellent with DEET or permethrin, wearing long, bright-colored clothing when hiking, and showering immediately after potential tick exposure. Learn more about Powassan virus and how to reduce your risk of contracting it and other tick-borne illnesses here


 

A Glimpse at the Past Week



It was great to attend the Central Square Theatre Youth Underground Festival on Confronting Gun Violence and to speak with participants. Youth Underground Delegates wrote, produced, and acted in plays exploring school shootings and gun violence in America, issues they are all too familiar with. 


Hearing directly from youth about the impact the prevalence of gun violence has had on their mental health was so powerful. It was an honor to be able to speak with them before the show, where I told them about the gun safety omnibus passed by the House that is currently in Conference Committee. I was able to share with them more about four of the bills I filed that were included in the omnibus, including bills that would regulate ghost guns, strengthen the state’s red flag laws, and prohibit firearms in state and municipal buildings. 



It was a pleasure to attend the Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) Legislative Breakfast on Tuesday. SCES plays a vital role in ensuring the well-being of older adults and individuals with disabilities in our community, whether they live independently or with assistance. I am deeply appreciative of the essential and often challenging work they undertake, such as providing culturally competent and medically tailored meals. These services are indispensable for many of their clients who would otherwise face food insecurity. SCES serves as an invaluable resource for elders, individuals with disabilities, and their families in Cambridge. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with both staff and clients and to gain further insight into the important work of SCES. 


I’m grateful to Lee, pictured in the first photo, who talked about the incredible wraparound services that have allowed her to safely live independently. 


I am so lucky to have incredible staff who help keep me organized as we juggle the variety of legislative briefings we host and attend. These briefings help staff and legislators learn more about the thousands of bills filed every session and give us all a chance to do a deeper policy dive. 


I was inspired by the panel of speakers I joined who shared their stories that fuel their advocacy. 

I held a briefing on non-opioid pain relief options at the State House alongside the Massachusetts Pain Initiative on Tuesday. Chronic pain, which affects 350,000 people in Massachusetts, disproportionately impacts Black women and communities of color. Often, they do not have their pain believed by medical professionals, which can have devastating lifelong impacts on their mental and physical health. Alternative pain management options to opioids, including non-opioid medication, yoga, and acupuncture, can be difficult to access and often are not covered by insurance to the degree needed to treat those with acute and severe pain. 


I filed H.990, An Act relative to removing barriers to non-opioid pain management, to ensure easier access and education to alternative pain relief treatment and improve outcomes for those who suffer from chronic pain in the Commonwealth.

I am always grateful to have a chance to thank Cambridge Health Alliance nurses for their important work on the front lines of patient care. We talked about the need to ensure safe staffing levels and address workplace violence. 




I hosted a legislative briefing alongside the Children’s Mental Health Campaign (CMHC) on School-Based Behavioral Health on Thursday. 


Pictured next to me in the fifth photo is Maddy, a freshman in high school who spoke at the briefing. Maddy’s family moved to three different school districts in efforts to meet her educational needs. Her current district now recognizes that it does not have the resources to meet her needs, but is partnering with people and organizations who have the skill sets to work with Maddy. It should never have taken that long. Legislation I filed alongside CMHC, An Act establishing a child and adolescent behavioral health implementation coordinating council (H.1979), addresses this issue, by creating a council of stakeholders from different agencies and perspectives who can come together to ensure that schools, staff, and educators can access additional support when needed.


After the briefing, I spoke to a mom who has spent years trying to get her son a dual diagnosis of autism and mental health needs. After a lot of unnecessary suffering as a result of not having his needs addressed, he is now in an out-of-school placement that serves them. Her anguish, courage, and relief are the story of so many parents across Massachusetts. 


I am proud that our work resulted in legislation that passed last session, which you may have read about in previous newsletters. This was a signature bill that infused resources into schools and codified a statewide technical assistance center to implement behavioral health services in school districts. I am grateful for the collaboration and support of CMHC. 

 

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.

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.


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


Hozzászólások


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