Friday, February 14, 2020

SeniorCare Valentine’s Day Breakfast Fundraiser For Meals on Wheels

A wonderful reception today in support of SeniorCare’s Meals on Wheels program at The Gloucester House in downtown Gloucester. This event helps support the Meals On Wheels program that supports home-bound seniors so they can receive nutritious food and a thoughtful visit five days a week.

SeniorCare Inc. is a non-profit organization that coordinates services for elders and others, enabling them to live independently at home or in a setting of their choice while remaining part of their community. They serve nine communities North of Boston including: Beverly, Essex, Gloucester, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rockport, Topsfield, and Wenham.


Thursday, February 13, 2020


Today my office issued the following press release:


Establishes Blue Ribbon Task Force to Improve Availability, Access And Cost-Effective Care

Boston- As part of the State Senate’s adoption of wide-ranging legislation to overhaul the mental health and behavioral health care system today, Senators adopted a measure authored by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr which responds to the increasingly fragmented and dysfunctional pediatric mental health system.

Senator Tarr, in remarks from the Senate Chamber during debate, told colleagues that children in need of care face a mental health care system that fails them.

“Even with insurance coverage, there are thousands of children across our state each and every year who are boarded in hospital rooms instead of being given access to appropriate care,” said Senator Tarr (R- Gloucester). “I proposed the creation of a pediatric mental health task force because there are too many children with a treatable mental health disorder who lack access to treatment, face a decline in available credential professionals, wait the longest for an available bed in a facility, and they suffer the most when the system fails them.”

Tarr’s amendment directs a task force composed of the Secretary of Health And Human Services, the Assistant Secretary for MassHealth; the Commissioner Of Public Health; representative of the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, the Massachusetts Medical Society, providers of pediatric mental health, representatives of academic medical institutions and parents or family members of consumers of pediatric mental health services.

The task force is charged with producing a comprehensive analysis of the delivery of pediatric mental health services and making recommendations to improve the availability, cost-effectiveness and access of those services by an August 1st deadline

. The bill Senate 2519, an Act Addressing Barriers To Care For Mental Health, was adopted by unanimous vote of the Senate following bipartisan input into its development. Tarr, noting the long gap since the adoption of the state’s mental health parity law of 2000, called the passage “an extremely momentous point in time for the Massachusetts Senate.”

One major area of concern for children in crisis has come to be known as ‘boarding’, keeping mental health patients in hospital emergency wards, without treatment, for more than 12 hours because there is are no available placement in appropriate care settings.

“A day doesn’t go by where we don’t hear of a child in the Commonwealth who is in a crisis situation because we have not developed and implemented capacity to deal with these issues in every part of the state,” Tarr said.

According to Massachusetts Health Policy Commission data, one in five teenage children who sought emergency care for a behavioral health issue waited at least half a day for treatment. 13 percent waited more than a week for care. In contrast, the same review found that 9 percent of adults waited 12 hours.

Tarr said that in addition to the severe shortage of mental health professionals there are particularly great gaps in the availability of licensed mental health clinicians for children with some families waiting many months for an initial psychiatric appointment. Psychiatrists were the second most-recruited specialty nationwide according to a recent study by health care consulting firm Merritt Hawkins in their Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives.

The Senate bill now moves to the House where it is eligible for further action.


Advancing Mental Health Care

The Senate will vote today on the #MentalHealthABC bill. We will take important steps to respond to systemic problems that are preventing people from being able to get the mental health care they need, when they need it.

We began the day with a State House gathering to detail the components of the bill, Act Addressing Barriers To Care For Mental Health, and to thank those who provide input to making this bipartisan bill more responsive to our residents

Reform of our mental and behavioral health systems have been too long in the making which makes today an extremely momentous point in time for the Massachusetts Senate and for all of us. You can read the bill, and any of the amendments offered here -



Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Register To Vote

Voter registration deadline is today for the Massachusetts March 3 Presidential Primary.

 If you are not yet a registered voter you can still register to vote, or change your party affiliation, in time to meet the deadline for the Presidential Primary election held in our state. If you are uncertain if you are already registered you can check your status at - …

If you would like to register in-person, you may do so at any local election office, as well as the Elections Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office. Voter registration is available at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.



My office distributed the following press release today regarding mental health care legislation.

Amendments Would Make Care More Accessible and Timely

Boston- The Massachusetts Senate will debate a major bill to improve the state's mental health care system on Thursday, and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) has offered several important amendments to make the bill stronger and, among other things, increase access to care in terms of availability, timeliness of treatment, and insurance coverage

The bill, an Act Addressing Barriers to Care for Mental Health, features components intended to expand access to timely care, create tools to better enforce existing mental health parity laws, bypass obstacles which delay treatment, and measures to ensure that patients have accurate information about clinician services.

"This bill is desperately needed, and takes important steps to respond to clear systemic problems that are preventing people from being able to get the care they need,” said Senator Tarr, who added "and given these circumstances we need to make it as strong as possible."

The bill is expected to be debated by the Senate Thursday, lawmakers have proposed more than 80 amendments, Tarr has authored 13 amendments for his colleagues to consider ranging from instituting a pediatric mental health task force aimed at expanding availability and quality of services for youths to providing a suicide prevention hotline to assist friends and families of people with suicidality.

“Several of the amendments I am offering will have a deep and positive impact on the people who need access to comprehensive health care when they need it,” said Tarr.

Among Senator Tarr’s amendments are:
• Pediatric Mental Health Care Task Force - Creates the Pediatric Mental Health Care Task Force to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the delivery of pediatric mental health services and make recommendations to improve the availability, access and cost-effectiveness of those services.
• Suicide Prevention and Crisis Management - Creates the Commission on Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Management to examine the state of suicide prevention and mental health crisis management. The Commission will examine emergency and outpatient care needs, inpatient and long-term care needs, facility and infrastructure needs, public information and outreach; professional training needs and potential shortages. Establishes a dedicated fund suitable to accept donations from charitable organizations.
• Availability Of Behavioral Health Screening - Tasks the Department of Mental Health’s Center for Police Training in Crisis Intervention to examine the availability of behavioral health screening and preliminary treatment in emergency responses by municipal and state police and other public safety personnel.
• Hospital Licensure- Requires hospitals to include access to behavioral health professionals as a condition for a hospital to be licensed by the Department of Public Health.
• Duration of Stay- Requires acute-care hospitals to report the duration of stay in emergency departments or in a satellite emergency facility to the Department of Public Health.
• Behavioral Health Professionals Licensure- Requires, as a condition of licensure, that a behavioral health professional accept at least one form of insurance from MassHealth, the Group Insurance Commission, or a licensed commercial carrier.
• First Responders Grant Program Study To Address Behavioral Health Screening And Preliminary Treatment- Conducts a feasibility study on the creation of a grant program to assist municipal and state police along with other emergency personal in behavioral health screening and preliminary treatment in emergency responses.

Recent research by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts found that a majority of adults sampled in our state who seek mental health or behavior health care have a difficult time securing it, even if they are fully insured.

Senators are expected to begin debate on the reform bill on Thursday, if adopted by a majority of members the bill will proceed to the House where it will be eligible for further action.


Tuesday, February 11, 2020


I met today with Sarah Grow, Director of Advocacy and Development of The Open Door, and guest from Cape Ann, to discuss the important issue of nutrition and access to food.

To help more low-income families purchase the food that they need, I have sponsored legislation to help address a problem called the SNAP Gap. SNAP is the federally-funded supplemental nutrition assistance benefits program and the gap is the difference in the number of income eligible people enrolled in MassHealth or the Medicare Savings Program who are not also enrolled for the federal nutrition program.

By establishing a coordinated process for federal applications we could generate $2 billion in economic stimulus to our local economies and secure nearly $1 billion in federal SNAP nutrition dollars for those most in need. Senate bill 678, which I have co-sponsored, will create a common application for this important safety net program and help hundreds of thousand of people in households across our state.


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Finding The Way Forward With Community Action

Finding The Way Forward With Community Action  I was delighted today to be the recipient of the 'Community Action Champion Award' from the Massachusetts Association for Community Action at a State House policy briefing event.  MASSCAP also recognized Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, Senate Ways and Means Chairman Mike Rodrigues, and Representative Paul Donato for their contributions to opening doors to economic prosperity for more than 600,000 low-income Massachusetts residents.

Joe Diamond, MASSCAP Executive Director began the session which featured briefings on early education, heating assistance, strengthening human service systems and creating economic opportunities.

I have always called these community action organizations, which are federally mandated and  dedicated to fighting poverty, 'Swiss army knives' for their remarkable utility to help people in so many ways.  Thanks to Maggie Howard, Deputy Director of Action Inc. for her introduction and for presenting me with the award.  Action Inc. has served people on Cape Ann for more than 5 decades, you can learn more about their services at



Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Important Health Information About The Coronavirus

While the risks of contracting the virus are low in Massachusetts there are 11 confirmed cases in the United States and as of today there has been one confirmed case of this novel coronavirus in our state. US Health and Human Services officials have put airport screening procedures in place for visitors at 15 US airports including Logan.

Here is a link to the state's Department of Public Health webpage on the outbreak of Coronavirus:


North Wilmington T Station Construction Plans On Track State, MBTA, and Town Set Vision and Timeline

Wilmington, MA – Motivated by growing public safety concerns about MBTA Commuter Rail trains impeding access along Route 62 for emergency first responders and vehicular traffic, Wilmington’s legislative delegation has prompted state officials to commit to decisive plans to overhaul the troubled rail stop.

Wilmington’s state Senator, Bruce Tarr, kicked off the changes by securing a $180,000 appropriation with the support of Representative Dave Robertson and Representative Ken Gordon to a recent budget bill to support the station project.

Sustained by legislative efforts, the MBTA has committed to adding a primary source of funds for the project with resources that will result in a new platform, improved access for passengers and those with a disability. In combination, these resources have moved the redesign of the North Wilmington commuter rail station several steps further towards resolving public safety issues with construction potentially beginning as early as this spring.

The original earmarked funds from the legislature can now be repurposed to accomplish additional improvements such as enhanced lighting, paving, and perhaps an overhead canopy.

“Through tremendous, focused collaboration and bipartisan legislative action, we are now poised to take substantial action to not only make the North #Wilmington station safer, but also more welcoming, efficient and accessible for MBTA riders,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester).

The lawmakers say the T’s added funds will result in a more cost-efficient path to resolving the issue of the commuter trains blocking the road while discharging passengers. In addition, with project funding secured in the legislative earmarked for design and implementation, additional efforts by the MBTA, and a modified construction and engineering plan, has resulted

Sourcing inspiration from the construction of platforms for the Cape Flyer rail service, North Wilmington’s new platform will consist of recovered bridge segments from the old Central Artery highway in Boston. These concrete sections are cleaned and refurbished and engineered to withstand heavy use. Components will be trucked to Wilmington and assembled to form a platform.

“Working with the T to resolve this issue has been a huge concern of Senator Tarr, Representative Gordon, and myself. With this cooperation with the T, it is my hope that this situation will be fixed with the train removed from blocking the crossing and a new, improved station constructed in a way that saves money and solves our issue,” said Representative Dave Robertson (D- Tewksbury). “It is also my hope that any leftover money we allocated from the state to fix this may be used to improved parking or other elements of the station, making it more attractive to commuters wishing to avoid traffic and improving the service of the T.”

Railings, lighting, and roofing will be installed along with handicapped accessible ramps. Much like other “off-site” prefabricated panels, these recovered platforms save money while meeting all standards of durability and accessibility. Due to the rapid assembly nature, construction timelines are expected to be greatly reduced as well with no sacrifices in build quality.

“I’m glad that together with the MBTA we were able to come up with a solution to this public safety hazard that will increase safety and accessibility for everyone in Wilmington. It has been an honor to work alongside Senator Tarr and Rep. Robertson whose tireless work helped move this project forward,” said Representative Ken Gordon (D- Bedford).

The MBTA's Haverhill line makes multiple daily stops, each taking between 1 and 2 minutes, at the North Wilmington depot. These stops trigger the railway safety gates intended to stop traffic in both directions.

Wilmington’s Police and Fire Department vehicles, and those of other emergency responders, are frequently snared in traffic backups at the station and are impeded in responding to emergencies.


Monday, February 3, 2020

Go Red For Women Day

Today, many lawmakers partnered with the American Heart Association -- Massachusetts for the annual Go Red For Women Day at the State House.

This special awareness day is part of the American Heart Association’s efforts to end heart disease and stroke in women. Did you know that more women die every year from heart disease and stroke than other causes? Experts say nearly 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented, but cardiovascular diseases continue to be a woman’s greatest health threat.

We wore red to support the American Heart Association and bring attention to this issue in hopes of reducing risk of heart disease and stroke.

With Senate President Karen Spilka, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito Senator Joan Lovely, Representative Brad Hill, Representative Lenny Mirra,& Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante.


Spofford Pond Elementary Band Play The State House

Boxford’s Spofford Pond Elementary Band annual performance at the State House is always a unique pleasure. Their music journeys from the center of the building and reaches ears throughout. Representative Lenny Mirra gave the students a State House tour and they gave a remarkable performance at the Grand Staircase.

A special thanks to the Spofford Pond Schooll, the parents who helped transport band equipment to the State House as well as their friends and family members who came to Boston last week. With Representative Lenny Mirra and Representative Tram T Nguyen.