Forty-year-old Lily was a vibrant, loving mother who was an organist at her church, and known for her delicious baked goods. Privately, she suffered from serious depression, self- medicating herself with alcohol. Lily’s daughter, Secretary of Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, vividly remembers caring for her as a teenager, watching her mother withdraw from life before her passing.
“I’m not ashamed that the illness runs in my family. My job is to channel that adolescent anger into a professional commitment to treat addiction and mental illnesses, and not stigmatize people with chronic conditions,” said Sudders, “So often the way into treatment for people with addictions and mental illnesses is through the criminal justice system.”
Sudders shared her personal experiences with city leaders and business owners during “The Opioid Epidemic: Our Businesses & Workplaces,” on Feb. 7 at the Comfort Inn & Suites, Revere. Presented by the Revere, Chelsea, and Winthrop Chambers of Commerce, and the North Suffolk Public Health Collaborative, the breakfast raised awareness about substance abuse in the workplace.
“Addiction is a disease. It is not a lack of will power. Addictions are very powerful,” explained Sudders. “We are in the middle of an epidemic in Massachusetts. This is very important to us. We are in this with you.”
Sudders recommended that employees be aware of which workers have addictions, are on the way to addiction, or have family members with addictions. These employees may often call in sick or use vacation time, but could be caring for a sick loved one.
“We want to make sure that people we work with have access to treatment and support,” Sudders said. “We are trying to expand access to treatment.”
Over the next five years, the Commonwealth and Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration will invest more than $200 million into Medicaid to increase access to residential recovery homes, treatment medications, and recovery coaches.
“I’m grateful for the connection between these three, very-close communities,” said Sudders. “They have strong legislative leaderships and great community partnerships.”
According to a December 2017 Center for Disease Control report, the opioid crises has been linked to a two-year drop in life expectancy for the second consecutive year; with opioids being the largest contributor of unintentional injuries due to overdose.
“There is a glimmer of hope,” Sudders said. “But there is still a lot of suffering and work that we need to do together.”
Although six lives are lost each day in Massachusetts from overdoses, there has been a decrease in opioid-related deaths as compared to last year. The Commonwealth has noticed a significant decline in opioid prescriptions, and a 200-percent increase in non-fatal overdoses.
“Businesses are also on the front line, just like first responders and health care workers,” said Alexander Walley, MD, Boston Medical Center. “Throughout Massachusetts people are faced with this in their own families, employees, customers, and public spaces.”
Employers were encouraged to foster a supportive atmosphere and offer resources and benefits to employees. Business owners were recommended to implement clear policies regarding leaves of absence and time off, and to seek professional advice when confronted with substance abuse-related issues.
“People in recovery can be great employees, and employers can help,” said Dr. Walley, director of the Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program. “Opioid use disorder is a chronic condition of the brain. Treatment works and people recover. That’s an important message.”
In 2011, the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) was in total disarray, and Chelsea resident Tom Standish had a long history of putting things back together.
As the chair of the CHA since 2011, putting things back together is exactly what Standish, the other Board members and the staff at CHA did in the wake of the Michael McLaughlin corruption scandal.
Now, with his work seemingly done and the CHA now a high-performer in the public housing world, Standish has stepped aside from his long-time role as chair of an organization that was quite literally brought back from the grave.
“It was a clear case of corruption and the need to restore normalcy to the government,” said Standish recently from his home on the waterfront, a few weeks after stepping down as chair. “Really, it was transparent that someone was controlling the situation and had everyone in line. There needed to be five people who had the strength of character and expertise to guide the CHA back to normalcy. As it turned out, we guided it to high performance.”
After the McLaughlin scandal, few thought that the CHA would ever be put back given the tangled web of accounting fraud and the money not expended on facilities for so long.
Tenants were angry.
The public was angry.
The federal government was angry.
Those five board members, led by Standish, helped restore the confidence.
Standish said he saw a posting about the City looking for talented people to serve on the new board – as the old board had been removed quickly on suspicion of corruption with McLaughlin. With a deep resume as a regulator in the Connecticut government and in other endeavors, he was chosen right off. At the first meeting, his other four colleagues quickly elected him as the chair when he voiced concern over the minutes from the previous meetings – challenging the Board’s attorney.
From there, the rebuilding took place, including the hiring of current CHA Executive Director Al Ewing – who had served previously in the CHA administration.
“It was our task to establish a route that would bring us to restoration of faith in the performance of the duties,” said Standish. “We went on the war path. We got the support of Al Ewing and he did a fabulous job of brining a fee accountant in and an accountant from outside to do an audit…That gave us a lot of confidence in Al. You can change a lot with a big organization if you can get competent, honest people. For me personally, that was a turning point in the organization.”
Another turning point, he said, was when they were able to get the full services of the Nixon Peabody law firm and Attorney Jeff Sacks to help them guide the case against McLaughlin on behalf of the CHA. That was also assisted by Charlestown attorney Susan Whalen, whom the CHA hired.
Standish said, through a mutual friend, he had heard that Nixon Peabody was looking for a case to work on pro bono that would make a difference. As it happened, that case was the CHA’s.
“They were going to pay for it 100 percent,” he said. “It wasn’t one of those where they said they would help us for 75 cents on the dollar. It was 100 percent…Susan Whalen in conjunction with Nixon Peabody were able to move the case forward and were able to get a decision.”
While the matter of McLaughlin’s $200,000 pension is still outstanding, and the McLaughlin matter still appears as a potential Executive Session item on every CHA meeting agenda – for the most part justice was done.
Standish said he was very relieved on the day McLaughlin was sentenced in Boston Federal Court, knowing that justice had been rendered for the tenants and the taxpayers. However, he said he was conflicted about the time and type of sentence – noting that he is glad he did not have to make a recommendation to the court.
“In the end, McLaughlin said he was just trying to keep up with his neighbors,” he said. “He said they all had nice cars and nice houses and he just wanted to keep up with them. It was a totally different McLaughlin than we had seen up to then.”
Overall, Standish said he would look back at his time on the CHA as something of a gift – a way he could give back, and in turn, be given to.
“I was energized by it,” he said. “There are a lot of people who run out and look to be fulfilled in life by making money, but try as they may, nothing is more fulfilling than giving to society…The thing that’s great for me is to see public housing work in Chelsea. I’ve come to realize that high-minded people make this world work. We have been a high-performer every single year since the first one. We worked very hard – many long hours and all uncompensated. It has been invigorating and exciting. I regard it as a gift to have had the opportunity.”
The Metro Housing Boston organization reported this month that their transition assistance program for families in crisis helped 70 families in Chelsea with a total expenditure of $190,623 locally.
Outside of Boston, Chelsea was the one community where RAFT was utilized more than others. The next closest community was Malden with 47 families helped.
The Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program provides families with a small amount of cash assistance and provides an option to having to enter emergency shelter. Metro Housing Boston administers RAFT in Boston and 28 surrounding communities. With RAFT, eligible families can apply for up to $4,000 that can be used to help retain housing, get new housing, keep utilities on and to avoid homelessness. To qualify, a family cannot make more than 50 percent of the area median income, which in the 2017 Boston region was $46,550 for a family of three.
“Many families are living paycheck to paycheck,” red the report. “An unplanned expense can put their housing in jeopardy. RAFT provides a safety net for families to have something to fall back on when they are in crisis and need support.”
It is the fourth year that Metro Housing Boston has shared the data about the program, which is funded by the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Stating that Boston is one of the top five most expensive cities to live within in the United States, officials from Metro Housing Boston said such funding is extremely important for families with very low incomes to handle things like fires or other catastrophes that they cannot afford to plan for.
“For four years running, our reports continue to show the positive impacts of the RAFT program,” said Metro Housing Executive Director Christopher Norris. “For a relatively small investment, families in our region are able to stay in their communities near their children’s schools, their health providers, and their social networks. This is crucial to helping families maintain stability and achieve economic security.”
Overall, including Chelsea, the program likely saved 1,000 families from turning to a shelter – which also is estimated to have saved the state $31 million in emergency shelter funds. For the $3.8 million RAFT funding, 1,474 families were able to resolve housing crises.
With the continued commitment to funding by the state for RAFT, the program has been able to assist 60 percent more families than it did four years ago. However, this year the average benefit decreased by 3 percent to an average of $2,614 per client.
Also, a pilot program during FY17 expanded RAFT eligibility to include families of all sizes and configurations. Under this program, Metro Housing served 60 households, 31 of whom were individuals and 27 of whose head of household had a disability.
A vast majority of those receiving RAFT (48 percent) use it to pay rent that is in arrears. Some 20 percent use it to pay security deposits for a new apartment, and 11 percent use it for first/last months rent payments on a new apartment.
East Boston Savings Bank’s 32nd Annual Holiday Auction raised over $75,000 for local charities. EBSB employees, family, friends and vendors gathered at the Danversport Yacht Club where items donated by Bank employees, family members, local businesses and vendors were auctioned off to the highest bidder. Other items others were offered through various raffles that took place during the evening.
EBSB’s President, CEO and Chairman Richard J. Gavegnano and Executive Vice President John Migliozzi served as auctioneers for the event. “The auction is a wonderful event and one our employees look forward each year as it brings them all together for the fun and enjoyment of giving to a good cause. We are proud of the role we play as a good neighbor in the communities we serve, and our employees continue to be supportive of those efforts” said Gavegnano. “It’s hard to believe that the Bank has been doing this for thirty-two years. Each year the event gets bigger and the donated items are more extravagant”.
The five charities benefitting from the event are Bread of Life in Malden, Crossroads Family Shelter in East Boston, East Boston Social Centers, Greater Medford Visiting Nurse & Community Health and Citizens Inn in Peabody. Each of these organizations received a check for $15,000.
About East Boston Savings Bank
Founded in 1848, EBSB is a proven community bank that offers products and services that meet the deposit and financing needs of both consumers and businesses. East Boston Savings Bank currently operates 32 full-service branches and operates a Mobile Banking Unit in the greater Boston metropolitan area and offers a variety of deposit and loan products to individuals and businesses located in its primary market, which consists of Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, and Suffolk counties.
The Estates on Admiral’s Hill (www.admiralshill.org) will hold a holiday open house for its two assisted living residences on Tuesday, December 5 from 3pm to 5pm. Amidst holiday treats, lively piano music and hot chocolate by the fireplace, attendees will meet Executive Director Yari Velez and her talented team. One-on-one discussions and personalized tours will be provided as well as the opportunity to meet the current residents.
Located on Admiral’s Hill at 201 Captains Row in Chelsea, The Estates is comprised of two separate residences: Cohen Florence Levine Estates, a traditional assisted living and Florence & Chafetz Home for Specialized Care, a residence for those in need of additional support services. Amenities include fresh healthy meals, a 24-hour café with home-made baked goods, hair and nail salon, library, living room, great room for concerts and shows, dining room and outdoor courtyard area for seasonal activities.
“This open house is a chance for area residents to personally meet our amazing staff and residents and find out, first hand, what assisted living is all about,” explains Executive Director Yari Velez. “In addition to personalized tours, we can answer questions about the affordability of assisted living as well as the tax credit program.” She added, “Finding the right place to live for seniors can be a complicated process; our goal is to make the process as easy as possible.”
The open house will be held from 3pm to 5pm on Tuesday, December 5 at 201 Captains Row in Chelsea. To RSVP to the open house and/or schedule a private tour, please call Terry Halliday at 98-854-1825 or email email@example.com. firstname.lastname@example.org
Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, a highly respected leader in senior living, employs over 1200 people and provides care to over 800 individuals daily, with campuses in Chelsea and Peabody, MA. Offering a full continuum of services, Chelsea Jewish Lifecare (www.chelseajewish.org) is redefining senior care and re-envisioning what life should be like for those living with disabling conditions. The eldercare community includes a wide array of skilled and short-term rehab residences, ALS and MS specialized care residences, traditional and specialized assisted living options, memory care, independent living, adult day health, geriatric care management, home care, personal care and hospice agencies that deliver customized and compassionate care.
Lieutenant Gov. Karyn Polito announced a total of $389,000 in planning and predevelopment grants for Housing Authorities in Chelsea, Gloucester, New Bedford and Taunton to pursue implementation of Worcester Housing Authority-pioneered ‘A Better Life’ programming.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and State Housing Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay present a grant to City Manager Thomas Ambrosino and CHA Executive Director Al Ewing and Assistant Director Diane Cohen to help bring the ‘A Better Life’ program to Chelsea.
The program catalyzes economic independence and self-sufficiency by providing families and residents access to support services, educational opportunity and employment, while encouraging debt reduction and home ownership.
“Our administration is committed to pursuing community programming that works, and allowing others to learn from and build on its success,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Worcester’s ‘A Better Life’ program is providing families guidance and access to the services and employment or educational opportunities that allow them to move towards long-term economic independence. We look forward to seeing others implement the program for their families and communities.”
A Better Life (ABL) at the Worcester Housing Authority pairs participating families and residents with a Family Life Coach to conduct a comprehensive assessment of residents’ needs and helps to create a collaborative “family development plan.” This plan helps families map out short and long-term goals in focus areas of employment, financial literacy and education. Participants continue to receive support to discuss progress and accomplishments, and are given access to services through partner providers. Additionally, Worcester Housing Authority employs a full-time employment manager, who works with regional employers to help match participants to job opportunities.
Lt. Governor Polito joined Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay, Worcester Housing Authority Executive Director Alex Corrales and local officials in Worcester for the announcement.
“I am thrilled to announce the expansion of A Better Life, and I want to congratulate the Worcester Housing Authority on creating a program that profoundly benefits the lives of residents and families,” said Lt. Governor Polito. “These awards will give more housing authorities the resources to create their own programming that will support families on the road to economic self-sufficiency and improve access to educational, financial and employment opportunities.”
“Our public housing authorities provide critical housing in the Commonwealth, and affect the lives of thousands of families and residents,” said Chrystal Kornegay, Housing and Community Development Undersecretary. “A Better Life leverages those existing touch points, and provides profoundly effective services to residents, and we are proud to partner with housing authorities to test its effectiveness at other sites.”
Since the program was implemented in 2015, more than 200 residents have taken part in ABL. A Better Life has supported families and residents in pursuing significant accomplishments in employment, education and financial success. Employment among participants has increased by 62 percent, and they have seen an overall increase of gross annual income by 76 percent. Worcester’s participants have completed a collective 106 educational programs: 57 certifications, 12 associate degrees and five bachelor degrees. Additionally, ABL participants have reduced their overall debt by 30 percent, and those who have graduated the program have seen an even more significant reduction, at 75 percent.
These grants will give the Chelsea Housing Authority resources to design, plan, and prepare to implement the ABL program. CHA will create strategies to capture program performance, an implementation timeline and recruit service provider partners to offer critical support services to residents.
For the second time this year, a few angry residents have taken to a City Council meeting to castigate Councillor Luis Tejada for an allegedly offensive posting made on social media.
Chelsea Collaborative Executive Director Gladys Vega and two other Collaborative members, including School Committeewoman Yessenia Alfaro Alvarez, took over the Public Speaking portion of Monday night’s meeting to sharply criticize Tejada for a recent posting on social media regarding immigration – specifically objecting to his use of the term ‘anchor babies’ within the post.
“As a city councillor using that term, it was extremely offensive and shame on him,” said Vega. “He should have a public meeting and explain himself…Those who come here, their reality is devastating. They are coming here because they are in desperate situations. Shame on Luis Tejada…Let’s make sure the next election, he doesn’t get back in office.”
Tejada, who was not at the meeting when the objections were made, told the Record he is away on a business conference in New York all week, and he didn’t want to respond to the criticism until he had a chance to view what was said on the recording.
He said the posting was made in response to video that showed former President Bill Clinton making similar statements about immigration in the 1990s as Donald Trump is making now.
A paper copy of the posting handed out by Vega indicated that Tejada was posting on a video that was shared by Planning Board member Todd Taylor regarding comments made about his opinion on immigration in 1995.
The post read in full, “I’m with you Todd Taylor. The fact is that illegal immigration is illegal and just because people choose to use fluff words like undocumented or do things like have anchor babies doesn’t lessen the crime. But we are becoming the anything goes country. Where anything goes and even if it pollutes the culture we must take it, otherwise we are racist bigots, etc. Shame on those who are selling our country out.”
Collaborative member Sylvia Ramirez pointed out that Tejada’s mother was an immigrant from Colombia, though she did not immigrate to the U.S. illegally.
“I am truly, truly ashamed that I need to call him one of our Latino newly elected councillors,” she said. “His mother is an immigrant…It is too bad the words he used to express himself. We need an explanation as a city about what he said.”
Alfaro Alvarez said she came across the border as a teen-ager without documentation, and though she did later legalize her immigration status, she came for the same reasons – to escape violence and fear.
She said Tejada should be careful about using social media.
“Here in Chelsea, the majority of us are from Central America,” she said. “Believe it or not, social media is a powerful took and it can embrace you or destroy you.”
Taylor, who was at the meeting, also addressed the issue during Public Speaking.
“It seems to me that people said he should be ashamed that he is Latino,” said Taylor. “I heard that if you are Latino, you have to believe like all other Latinos. That isn’t free speech. That sounds like bullying. Immigration is complex. It isn’t easy. I urge us to have an open conversation about the issue.”
Tejada found himself in trouble with social media earlier this year when he posted some responses to the new transgender law that was passed, asking what parents are supposed to do when they see a man go into the women’s bathroom with their kids. That triggered an angry letter from one member of the community, and disappointment from a few others, and also a public apology from Tejada.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Board acted Monday to move ahead with plans to completely demolish Interstate 90 toll plazas by the end of 2017 as a milestone in the state’s progress toward All Electronic Tolling (AET) along Interstate 90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike), the Tobin Bridge, and Boston tunnels.
For Chelsea purposes, State Rep. Dan Ryan said there would be no alteration or changes to the Bridge Discount Program offered to Chelsea residents, whereby they pay $.30 instead of $3 for being a host community.
At Monday’s Board meeting, MassDOT announced that AET will “go live” on October 28.
A series of seven public hearings has been scheduled for public input, with the only meetings in the Boston area being at North Shore Community College in Lynn on Sept. 7 at 6:30 p.m., and another at the Jackson Mann School in Allston on Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m.
The Board approved toll demolition contracts, reviewed data security and retention proposals and instructed MassDOT to proceed with public hearings on proposed toll rates designed to be revenue neutral and minimize changes in toll charges for current commuters.
“The AET system will improve driver convenience and safety and reduce greenhouse gas-causing vehicle emissions,” said MassDOT Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin. “When toll booths have been removed, AET will allow drivers to maintain regular highway speed as they pass under AET gantries, eliminating the need for drivers to sharply reduce speed and idle in toll booth lines.”
The Board-approved contracts provide that tolls booths will begin to be demolished as soon as AET goes live and all work to remove toll plazas and reconstruct roadways is to be completed by the end of 2017.
While the decision on gantry locations was based on a 2012 study and the decision to implement AET was made in 2014, MassDOT officials have been working with the predetermined gantry locations to make sure rates at the new gantries remain “revenue neutral,” meaning that total revenue generated both on the Western Turnpike (I-90 from the New York border to Weston) and the Metropolitan Highway System will be approximately the same as with current tolls.
Proposed rates will extend discounts for users of Commonwealth of Massachusetts-issued E-ZPass transponders, currently available only at the Weston and Allston/Brighton tolls, to every gantry location including the Tobin Bridge and airport tunnels. The rates being proposed for public review provide that the cost of driving from one end of I-90 to the other for E-ZPassMA users will drop from the current rate of $6.60 to $6.15.
“In developing proposed AET rates and policies, we worked with the gantries’ predetermined locations and considered a series of plans and models to develop a revenue neutral toll strategy in an effort to keep changes in the cost of specific commuting trips modest, within five or ten cents of current rates,” said Massachusetts Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “We look forward to the public’s input on toll charges before the Board votes to finalize rates on October 6.”
Point-to-point tolls may change because of the location of gantries selected by the previous Administration and because there will be 16 gantries with the AET system compared with 26 toll plaza locations now. Under the proposed gantry toll rates presented today, just over half of all drivers would see their tolls either decrease or remain the same and another 20 percent of drivers would see an increase of five or ten cents per trip. Under proposed rates, higher increases would occur on trips that are currently un-tolled, for example, for travel in tunnels headed to the airport or for those drivers in the Newton area where a toll had been removed. The proposed gantry rates will be the subject of seven public hearings and a public comment period beginning after Labor Day.
The Board was also briefed about existing and proposed policies to restrict the usage and retention of data collected by gantries. Current law requires subpoenas for authorities to access driver data, mirroring the existing policies for the Massachusetts E-ZPass system. MassDOT is working with the Executive Office of Public Safety to establish clear policies for the use and retention of AET data. MassDOT is in discussions with public safety officials about the very limited circumstances in which AET-generated “Hot List” or other information could be used in the case of public safety emergencies.
MassDOT officials estimate that the agency will save about $5 million in annual operating costs with AET. The cost of designing and building the physical AET system is about $130 million and toll plaza removal and reconstruction, excluding the Sumner Tunnel, will cost about $133 million.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has selected the Hispanic-American Institute as one of five providers of training and assistance to small and minority businesses seeking to contract for the construction phase of new casinos under development in Everett and Springfield.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission awarded the project to the Institute in view of its track record of reaching out to minority, woman-owned, and veteran-owned businesses. The Institute is teaming up with the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce and Social Capital, Inc. to provide training and assistance on the certification process and other aspects of disadvantaged business participation in state contracts.
“The Institute is already helping Wynn Everett identify qualified contractors to work on its $2 billion construction project,” said Nader Acevedo, Executive Vice President of the Institute. Nader has a long history of helping New England small businesses secure contracts and financing, and has been recognized as one of Boston’s most influential Latinos by El Planeta newspaper for twelve consecutive years.
“We look forward to working with the Institute and Social Capital on this valuable opportunity for small businesses to participate in one of the largest construction projects in the region”, said Sergio Jaramillo, President of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. The Chelsea Chamber will lead the effort to involve other area Chambers of Commerce in the project.
We congratulate the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center on being named as one of the “Top Places To Work” in Massachusetts by the Boston Globe.
What a great honor it was for EBNHC Chief Executive Officer Manny Lopes, Chair Rita Sorrento, Human Resources Director Linda Dailey, Chief Medical Director Jackie Fuentes, and Vice President of Operations Lili Silva to accept the award during the formal presentation ceremony.
Certainly this prestigious award given by New England’s largest daily newspaper reflects well on the leadership of Lopes and his administrative team.
Lopes said that “a close-knit community culture and a passion that our employees have for making a difference in the lives of our patients that making working here special.”
The Globe praised EBNHC for “its innovative ways to engage and motivate their workers, which often serves as a key factor in innovation and leads to better professional performance.”
EBNHC has been a tremendous contributor to many local organizations, not only with its actions and its support, but with the presence of Manny Lopes and EBHNC employees such as Michael Nicastro and others at various events in our community.
We are pleased that the Globe has brought this favorable recognition to EBNHC, one of the largest employers in the area.