Month: June 2015

Sen. Lesser Secures $214,000 in Senate Budget for Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative’s Manufacturing Training Program

An amendment filed by Senator Lesser was unanimously approved by the Senate to fund a Manufacturing Training Program at the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative (LPVEC).

“This funding will provide much-needed help to create a larger, skilled workforce throughout Hampden County,” Lesser said.

The amendment will help the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative (LPVEC) develop a machine technology program for students in grades 9-12 and will serve the school districts of West Springfield, Ludlow, Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Agawam, Hampden-Wilbraham and Southwick-Tolland-Granville.

There are 214 manufacturing companies whose principal place of business is located in school districts served by the LPVEC, creating opportunity to directly link students to job vacancies in their immediate area.

/ In Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Sen. Lesser Secures $214,000 in Senate Budget for Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative’s Manufacturing Training Program

With Sen. Lesser’s Support, MA Senate Increases Aid to Hampden-Wilbraham School District

The Massachusetts Senate adopted a budget amendment increasing funding for school transportation in regional school districts, including Hampden-Wilbraham, by $2.5 million to a total of $59,021,000.

“School transportation has been one of the most difficult challenges for the Hampden-Wilbraham district,” Lesser said. “This measure will provide much-needed relief, and free up local money for other priorities.”

“I was pleased to learn that Senator Lesser and the MA State Senate have supported an increase in Regional School Transportation funding,” said Hampden-Wilbraham School Superintendent Martin O’Shea. “As a District covering over 40 square miles, HWRSD relies on Regional Transportation Aid to provide thousands of students with safe transportation to and from school.”

The amendment, which passed the Senate, increases reimbursement rates to 73 percent for all school districts, including Hampden-Wilbraham. This represents a notable increase from the projected FY15 rate of 64 percent, and a significant increase since FY11, when the rate was 58 percent.

In 2014, the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District faced a significant budget shortfall, when state aid for school transportation was abruptly cut.

Rep. Petrolati & Sen. Lesser Secure Funding for Ludlow Mills Riverwalk Improvements

Significant funds for public safety improvements on the Ludlow Mills Riverwalk have been included in both the Massachusetts House and Senate budget proposals. These funds will allow for the installation of lighting, benches, trash receptacles and historic signage along the Riverwalk.

Rep. Thomas Petrolati (D-Ludlow) led efforts in the House to secure $350,000 in funding for the Riverwalk, which is part of the Ludlow Mills Preservation and Redevelopment master plan and aims to promote public health and recreation along the Chicopee River.

“This is the third year in a row that the House has fully funded the Ludlow Mills Riverwalk,” Petrolati said. “It has always remained a key component of the revitalization program in bringing back economic vitality to a once thriving and integral part of Ludlow. I am pleased to see that the Senate has secured funding for the first time and will now be helpful in the budget conference.”

In the Senate, Sen. Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) also worked to secure funding for the Riverwalk, which was passed as an amendment to the FY16 Senate budget in the amount of $170,000.

“The new riverwalk will allow the people of Ludlow to reconnect with the Chicopee River, improve quality of life, and help spur redevelopment of the Ludlow Mills, creating more jobs and economic opportunity for Ludlow and the surrounding community,” Lesser said.

The final allocation will be determined in a budget conference committee and signed into law by Governor Baker this summer. This allocation will accompany $600,000 in private funding already secured for the project from MassDevelopment.

In March, Rep. Petrolati and Sen. Lesser brought Jay Ash, the Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, on a tour of the Ludlow Mills complex and the site of the Riverwalk.

The riverwalk is part of a broader redevelopment of the Ludlow Mills, which includes construction of 75 modern affordable apartments for senior citizens, and opening up the area along the Chicopee River to the Ludlow Mills businesses and to residents of the community. Phase I of the project is expected to be completed by July.

Senators Lesser & Welch Join Forces to Support Spirit of Springfield

The MA Senate unanimously adopted an amendment sponsored by Senator Eric P. Lesser and co-sponsored by Sen. James T. Welch (D-West Springfield) that provides $100,000 for the Spirit of Springfield.

“From the 4th of July fireworks to the World’s Largest Pancake Breakfast, from Bright Nights to the Parade of Big Balloons, the Spirit of Springfield is responsible for so many of Western Massachusetts’ most iconic events,” Lesser said. “This funding will help Spirit of Springfield further its mission of community service and empowerment.”

“The Spirit of Springfield helps showcase all the outstanding events the city hosts and fosters a sense of pride among residents,” Welch said. “I’m happy that the Senate budget included funding for this great organization, and hopeful it will help bring even more visitors to Springfield to experience what the city has to offer.”

The organization coordinates several large-scale annual community events each year in the Pioneer Valley that enhance quality of life by fostering a sense of community, civic pride and opportunities for celebration.

Opioid crisis: State targets drug abuse problem

MassLive – With opioid overdoses becoming a growing problem in Massachusetts, state officials have established three task forces to look at the issues surrounding opioid addiction.

“The idea is eventually we’re all going to merge each other’s work and put a plan together and have an actual piece of legislation for this session,” said state Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, a member of a Special Senate Committee on Opioid Addiction Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Options.

Last year, as overdose deaths spiked, then-Gov. Deval Patrick signed a law reforming insurance policy and creating new reporting requirements related to substance abuse. The law requires insurers to pay for 14 days of inpatient care for acute treatment for addiction without prior authorization. It requires a commission to prepare a list of drugs that can be substituted for opiates and requires pharmacists to dispense and insurers to cover abuse deterrent drugs. Several of the insurance provisions go into effect in October.

This year, under Gov. Charlie Baker, the state has continued to make combating opioid addiction a priority.

The most visible task force is one formed by Baker and chaired by Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders. The task force, which includes Attorney General Maura Healey and experts in health care, drug addiction and law enforcement, has held four public hearings around the state, heard from 1,100 people and reviewed thousands of pages of documents. Recovering addicts and bereaved family members told heartbreaking stories as they asked for more treatment beds, better insurance coverage and more education.

The task force is expected to release results by early June.

“We’ll be definitely focusing on prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery recommendations for the governor,” Sudders said. Sudders said will not prejudge the task force’s findings, but she hopes to make recommendations relating to increasing access to treatment and not requiring people to fail at lower levels of care before accessing treatment they need.

“The overall goal is to reduce opioid deaths in the commonwealth of Massachusetts and make sure people get the treatment they need,” Sudders said.

Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, has convened a separate legislative special committee, chaired by Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster. The committee is tasked with overseeing implementation of the law signed in August and with making additional recommendations to address opioid abuse through prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.

There are also several bills addressing substance abuse already pending in the Legislature.

One, sponsored by Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, would create a drug stewardship program in which a fee is added to the price of addictive narcotics, and that money is used to buy back excess drugs if, for example, someone is prescribed 50 pills but only takes 10.

Lesser wrote a bill to amend a prescription drug monitoring program to require pharmacies to report filling prescriptions for addictive narcotics within a day, rather than within a week. The goal would be to stop people from “pharmacy shopping,” filling one prescription multiple places.

Another bill filed by Lesser would let the state purchase the anti-overdose drug Narcan in bulk, so it could get cheaper prices, then distribute the drug to local police or ambulance departments.

In addition to those two committees, Healey has formed a working group of lawyers and investigators within her office to look at what the attorney general can do.

In an April interview, Healey said she is a looking at strengthening the state’s prescription drug monitoring program and cracking down on “problematic prescribing and dispensing practices.” She wants to focus on education and outreach to young people and families to prevent drug addiction, and to work with insurers and health care providers to ensure access to treatment.

Healey’s office has particularly been working in enforcement. In one case, Healey sued the North Andover-based Center for Psychiatric Medicine for allegedly charging MassHealth patients hundreds of dollars in cash fees for the anti-addiction drug Suboxone, when the medication would have been covered by MassHealth. The center allegedly allowed patients to pay cash to skip therapy sessions and physician visits.

Healey’s office has investigated and prosecuted criminal cases related to heroin trafficking and to people writing fake prescriptions. She requested information from the manufacturer and distributors of Narcan about recent price spikes. She has requested information from insurers about why Boston area drug rehabilitation patients who were affected by the Long Island bridge closure saw claims for treatment beds denied. A division of her office has been researching issues related to insurance coverage, cost trends and parity for physical and behavioral health treatment.

“Everyone needs to be at the table, because every day people are dying here in this state…and if we don’t come together now, it’s just going to continue to get worse and worse,” Healey said.

Sen. Eric Lesser Urges Gov. Baker’s Opioid Addiction Task Force to Recommend Two Key Measures to Fight Statewide Opioid Crisis

Sen. Eric P. Lesser submitted a letter this week urging Governor Charlie Baker’s Opioid Abuse Task Force to include his legislation that would close the pharmacy shopping loophole and establish the bulk purchasing of the anti-overdose drug Narcan in its list of recommendations for a statewide strategy to combat opioid addiction and curb overdose deaths in the Commonwealth.

“I hope you will consider joining with the Senate and including these provisions in your recommendations to Governor Baker,” Lesser states in the letter. “Together, we can combat this crisis with smart policy.”

In late May, the state Senate unanimously adopted a budget amendment filed by Senator Lesser aiming to curb prescription drug abuse and reduce the state’s alarming rate of opioid overdose deaths.

Specifically, the amendment reduces the length of time pharmacies must report to the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) from the current 7 days to 24 hours, as recommended by the Department of Public Health’s Drug Control Program in a February 2015 report, to assist in faster identification of pharmacy shopping and more effective prevention of overdose deaths.

Massachusetts State Police reported 217 suspected heroin overdose deaths during the first three months of 2015, a figure that doesn’t include the state’s three largest cities.

In addition, the anti-overdose drug Narcan has saved hundreds of lives in cases of heroin overdose, but first responders across Massachusetts have noted that its price is skyrocketing with growing demand.

To help municipalities purchase Narcan at a cheaper rate, Senator Lesser filed a bill requiring a study of different bulk purchasing options the state could offer. The bill’s framework was incorporated into the Senate’s FY16 budget proposal, which creates a program for cities and towns to order the lifesaving overdose reversal drug at a discounted rate via statewide bulk-purchasing, and creates opportunities for similar programs for other drugs of public health concern.

“The opioid crisis is destroying neighborhoods, families, and hundreds if not thousands of lives,” Lesser said. “Gov. Baker and I agree that state government must act swiftly in cooperation with first responders on the ground to reverse its direction, and I believe these recommended actions will be of great help to those efforts.”

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Sen. Eric Lesser Sends Letter Urging Gov. Baker’s Opioid Task Force to Recommend Two Key Measures

BOSTON–Senator Eric P. Lesser submitted a letter this week urging Governor Charlie Baker’s Opioid Abuse Task Force to include his legislation that would close the pharmacy shopping and establish the bulk purchasing of the anti-overdose drug Narcan in its list of recommendations for a statewide strategy to combat opioid addiction and curb overdose deaths in the Commonwealth.

“I hope you will consider joining with the Senate and including these provisions in your recommendations to Governor Baker,” the letter states. “Together, we can combat this crisis with smart policy.”

In late May, the state Senate unanimously adopted a budget amendment filed by Senator Lesser aiming to curb prescription drug abuse and reduce the state’s alarming rate of opioid overdose deaths.

Specifically, the amendment reduces the length of time pharmacies must report to the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) from the current 7 days to 24 hours, as recommended by the Department of Public Health’s Drug Control Program in a February 2015 report, to assist in faster identification of pharmacy shopping and more effective prevention of overdose deaths.

Massachusetts State Police reported 217 suspected heroin overdose deaths during the first three months of 2015, a figure that doesn’t include the state’s three largest cities.

In addition, the anti-overdose drug Narcan has saved hundreds of lives in cases of heroin overdose, but first responders across Massachusetts have noted that its price is skyrocketing with growing demand.

To help municipalities purchase Narcan at a cheaper rate, Senator Lesser filed a bill requiring a study of different bulk purchasing options the state could offer. The bill’s framework was incorporated into the Senate’s FY16 budget proposal, which creates a program for cities and towns to order the lifesaving overdose reversal drug at a discounted rate via statewide bulk-purchasing, and creates opportunities for similar programs for other drugs of public health concern.

“The opioid crisis is destroying neighborhoods, families, and hundreds if not thousands of lives,” Lesser said. “Gov. Baker and I agree that state government must act swiftly in cooperation with first responders on the ground to reverse its direction, and I believe these recommended actions will be of great help to those efforts.”

Senator Lesser tours the Zoo at Forest Park

Ray Hershel, Western Mass News

SPRINGFIELD–Remember the tough winter when Springfield’s Forest Park Zoo lost two monkeys? Upgrades have been made, and on Tuesday, state Sen. Eric Lesser toured the zoo with the goal of making it a regional tourist attraction. Last December, one of the zoo’s monkeys died after a fight with other monkeys and just days after, a second monkey died after a circuit breaker tripped, knocking out power and heat to the monkey’s shed. The zoo has a new alarm system in place to take care of the heating problem where the monkeys were living and is making other improvements.

“We’ve been able to install the temperature gauge system. We’re working with the city officials to get the electrical improved from the park into the zoo. It’s consistent facility improvement at the zoo which is nice,” said Meghan Rothschild, a member of the zoo’s board of directors.

Once the electrical system is improved, Rothschild added that the zoo is hoping to install temperature gauging systems in other locations as well to better protect the animals.

Lesser toured the zoo, saying he wants to make the zoo a tourist destination stop in the Pioneer Valley.

“I’m the chair of the tourism committee in the Senate and we want to make sure we look at the zoo as part of the broader picture of attractions that we’re pitching to the region and the country,” Lesser said.

Lesser noted that the key is getting the word out about the zoo, which he calls a gem. And there could be state funding to help.

“It is a tough budget year and it’s hard to find state funds, but there are a variety of state programs that help with tourist promotion,” says Lesser.

Zoo officials are thrilled about additional promotional help,

“We’re excited for the opportunity of what this could mean. and we’re constantly trying to raise awareness and let people know we’re here,” Rothschild explained.

The zoo is now open for the season, seven days a week.