Author: Ryan Migeed

Sen. Eric Lesser Visits Willie Ross School for the Deaf in Longmeadow

State Sen. Eric P. Lesser visited the Willie Ross School for the Deaf in Longmeadow to learn more about its curriculum and to discuss the role state government can play in improving and developing deaf education in Massachusetts.

“We are fortunate to have such an innovative institution for deaf and hard-of-hearing students right in our backyard,” Lesser said. “Meeting the unique learning styles and needs of these children is paramount to our educational success here in Western Massachusetts and the entire Commonwealth.”

During his visit, Lesser met with President and CEO Robert “Bert” Carter before being led on a tour of the building, including a stops to several classrooms, where students and teachers shared current projects and discussed their ongoing work-study activities in the community.

Founded in 1967 by a group of dedicated parents who sought to establish an innovative program for their children, the school employs a unique dual-campus model, consisting of an immersion approach, in which deaf and hard-of-hearing students learn together, and an inclusion approach, in which deaf students learn alongside hearing students in the East Longmeadow school system. The school serves students from cities and towns across Western Massachusetts

Local boy recognized as a Children’s Miracle Network Champion

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Joe Coles, 11, was a patient at Baystate Medical Center and has recently been appointed the Massachusetts representative for the Children’s Miracle Network.

Joe is a pretty remarkable kid. He was treated at Baystate for several health complications, but he’s not letting that stop him from accomplishing what he wants in life.

Friday was actually Joe’s birthday and in his short life, he has had a lot happen that many go a lifetime not experiencing at all.

Born with Down Syndrome, Joe has also been diagnosed with appendicitis, a collapsed lung, thyroid complications, a life-threatening heart condition, and leukemia.

Now, thanks to treatment from the staff at Baystate Children’s Hospital, his cancer is now in remission.

It has all been made possible by donations and help from the Children’s Miracle Network, an international nonprofit organization that raises funds for children’s hospitals and medical research.

Because of his willpower and strength of character, Joe has been named a Children’s Miracle Network champion and now represents Massachusetts for the organization.

Friday, he received a proclamation from state Senator Eric Lesser for his work representing the state.

“It’s been quite the honor to represent the state of Massachusetts for Children’s Miracle Network. We’ve met a lot great families, who’ve gone through different diagnoses, but similar situation,” said Kristin Coles, Joe’s mother.

“Joe is a young guy who made a grown-up decision to take his own illness and the pain he’s experienced and to help others who face the same type of hardships,” Lesser added.

For the next year, Joe and his family will represent the Commonwealth at events across the country.

Most recently, they took a congressional visit to Washington D.C., where they met with members of congress.

Joe’s family said that they hope to use this experience to shed light on the importance of children’s health care here in the United States.

The economy might be right to launch your own business

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The economy is improving, and consumers are starting to spend, the time might be right to start a small business.

Before you launch a business, you need experience, money, and an original plan. Topics the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network explored at a legislative roundtable discussion Friday morning. State Senators Eric Lesser and Stanley Rosenberg spoke at the event.

The MSBDC provides free business training to local residents. They focus on a variety of areas from business growth and strategies, to financing, loan assistance, and marketing analysis. Their funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, and run through the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Isenberg School of Management.

Dianne Fuller Doherty, the regional director of MSBDC told 22News she thinks the economy is just right to launch a business. “I think it’s a great time to start a business because the economy has gotten better, more and more people are understanding the importance and the value of small business,” she said.

Sean Ouimette is a former MSBDC financial consultant intern. He told 22News he hopes to someday start a business, but realized that requires a lot of experience first. “I think everybody needs a level of experience because if you’re going to open a business, you have to know the ins and outs of that business so you’re prepared to deal with any challenges you might face,” she said.

Earlier this week, Dun & Bradstreet, said businesses with fewer than 20 employees only have a 9% chance of surviving ten years.

UMass Amherst Isenberg School student Emma Tupp said she’s still optimistic the best ideas will make it. “It seems like a very good market now-a-days. People want to do something, they want to put themselves out there and do something that could turn out really great,” she said.

For more information on MSBDC and their services, click here.

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.”

/ In Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Sen. Eric Lesser Urges Gov. Baker’s Opioid Addiction Task Force to Recommend Two Key Measures to Fight Statewide Opioid Crisis