Last week, Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate passed comprehensive legislation to reduce youth access to tobacco and nicotine products. The bill raises the minimum legal sales age for all tobacco products to age 21 and adds vaping products to the smoke free workplace law.
Also included in the omnibus bill is language from Sen. DiDomenico’s bill to prohibit the sale of tobacco and nicotine delivery products in pharmacies and other health-care institutions. In 2014, CVS Pharmacy announced that it would stop tobacco based sales in their local pharmacies, and at least 160 Massachusetts communities have also banned tobacco sales in their local pharmacies. This legislation would require all other pharmacies to follow suit.
“It’s no secret that tobacco and nicotine use remains one of the leading causes of preventable illness and death across our nation, so it only makes sense that our health care institutions and pharmacies end the practice of carrying these harmful products,” said Senator DiDomenico, Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “I would like to thank Public Health Committee Chairman Jason Lewis for making this a top priority and including this as a key provision of this critical piece of legislation.”
Tobacco use and nicotine addiction remains the leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in Massachusetts, responsible for more than $4 billion in annual health care costs to the Commonwealth. Youth are particularly susceptible to nicotine addiction, with 9 in 10 cigarette smokers begin using before age 18.
While youth smoking has declined considerably in the last two decades, youth use of other addictive tobacco products like e-cigarettes is increasing sharply. While nicotine delivery products like e-cigarettes may sometimes help some nicotine-addicted adults to stop smoking traditional cigarettes, they present a significant new threat to the health and wellbeing of young people who have not previously used tobacco products.
“Raising the legal sales age for tobacco is an incredible public health achievement that will save lives, prevent addiction and ensure a healthier future for generations of Massachusetts youth,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “This legislation protects young adults whose minds and bodies are still developing, and is a proven strategy for nicotine addiction prevention. I am proud that the Senate has voted to approve this bill.”
“Massachusetts has long been a leader in protecting and strengthening public health,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health and the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate. “This comprehensive legislation will once again put the Commonwealth at the forefront of preventing youth addiction to tobacco and nicotine products, in order to improve health, save lives, and reduce healthcare costs.”
To directly target youth use, this legislation increases the legal sales age for tobacco products from 18 to 21. This is a proven and effective strategy to reduce youth tobacco use because it removes legally purchased tobacco products from high school social networks. The Institute of Medicine projects that increasing the age from 18 to 21 will reduce overall tobacco use in a population by 12% – the equivalent of 150,000 Massachusetts tobacco users.
Youth use of e-cigarettes has also grown alarmingly, becoming a pervasive presence in our high schools. The provisions in this bill build upon the regulations promulgated in 2016 by Attorney General Maura Healey, and ensure that the places that are tobacco free will also be vape free, including schools, restaurants and workplaces.
Other provisions included in the bill include new authority granted to the Department of Public Health to regulate new, emerging tobacco products and language requiring the Center for Health Information and Analysis to study the current tobacco cessation benefits offered by commercial insurers, MassHealth, and the Group Insurance Commission.
Many cities and towns have enacted policies to reduce tobacco use and nicotine addiction that go beyond current state and federal laws and regulations, creating a patchwork of different laws across the commonwealth that can confound retailers, distributors, consumers and public health officials. This legislation will provide a uniform statewide set of rules that protect youth and simplify the interaction between our state and local laws.
The bill now returns to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where the bill has formerly been engrossed, for enactment.
CHELSEA RESIDENTS GRADUATE FROM NORTHEAST METRO TECH
School Committee Chairman Deborah Davis and Principal Carla Scuzzarella are pleased to announce the graduation of 292 students from Northeast Metro Tech.
On Friday, June 1, graduates from 15 different vocations were celebrated and received their diplomas during a graduation ceremony at Breakheart Stadium.
Superintendent David DiBarri encouraged students to seek out leadership opportunities as they grow in their professional and personal lives — by pursuing management roles, joining their trade’s union or becoming a coach of their favorite sport.
“The United States is still the greatest country on earth but it is up to you and future generations to ensure that we continue to get better and better,” Superintendent DiBarri said. “Please remember that you will always be a member of the Northeast family. It is our hope that in the years to come that all of you will have some connection to Northeast.”
Graduating students from Chelsea include:
Eduard Ajtum Caal
Luis Barillas Natareno
Mathias Bermudez Galeano
Samuel Cantor Hernandez
Katerin Contreras Artica
Jaylene Coreas Carballo
Christian DeJesus Franco
Juleann Diniz Gomes
Genesis G. Escalante Rosales
Maryanne Funes Martinez
Roberto Funes Martinez
Lindsey Garcia Gallegos
Allan Garza Romero
Sarai Hernandez Martinez
Yorick Jimenez Zelaya
Jose Lopreto Hernandez
Madeline Martinez Fajardo
Emerson Meda Vasquez
Corey J. O’Neil
Jacqueline Pablo Lopez
Diego O. Rivera-Molina
Adiarys Rojas Hernandez
Diego Roque Romero
Jerry Ruiz Manzano
Trang T. Tran
Salutatorian Raymond Borden, of Winthrop, spoke in rhymes about his time at Northeast, paying tribute to a fellow salutatorian, Dr. Seuss.
“You’re sad that you’re leaving, it’s a shame you have to go, but no more home work or classwork, how could you say no?” Borden said to his peers. “…You did it, and whether by stumble or stride, you’ll do what you have to to get by. The brain is not for getting A’s and B’s, but for seizing lifetime opportunities. That’s my knowledge I impart to you, and with my final rhyme, I bid thee adieu.”
Class President Rebecca Corbett, of Revere, thanked everyone — from students’ families, to their teachers and staff, to her classmates — for making the last four years at Northeast so successful.
“This is it — this is the beginning of what we want to make our future,” Corbett concluded. “Whether you are going to further your education, or work in your trade, I believe that each and every one of you will do great things and be great people. Keep taking care of each other like family, and as a reminder, this is not goodbye, it’s see you later.”
LOCAL STUDENT WINS AWARD
Lucy Platero-Martinez, from Chelsea and a student at Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational High School won one of the nation’s highest awards at the 2018 SkillsUSA Championships, held in Louisville, Ky., on June 27-28. More than 6,300 students competed at the national showcase of career and technical education. The SkillsUSA Championships is the largest skill competition in the world and covers 1.4 million square feet, equivalent to 20 football fields or 25 acres. Students were invited to the event to demonstrate their technical skills, workplace skills and personal skills in 102 hands-on occupational and leadership competitions including robotics, automotive technology, drafting, criminal justice, aviation maintenance and public speaking. Industry leaders from 600 businesses, corporations, trade associations and unions planned and evaluated the contestants against their standards for entry-level workers. Industry support of the SkillsUSA Championships is valued at over $36 million in donated time, equipment, cash and material. More than 1,900 industry judges and technical committee members participated this year. Skill Point Certificates were awarded in 72 occupational and leadership areas to students who met a predetermined threshold score in their competition, as defined by industry. The Skill Point Certificate is a component of SkillsUSA’s assessment program for career and technical education.
Platero-Martinez was awarded a Skill Point Certificate in Esthetics. “More than 6,300 students from every state in the nation participated in the 2018 SkillsUSA Championships,” said SkillsUSA executive director Tim Lawrence. “This showcase of career and technical education demonstrates our SkillsUSA partnership at its finest. Our students, instructors and industry partners work together to ensure that every student excels. This program expands learning and career opportunities for our members.” The SkillsUSA Championships event is held annually for students in middle school, high school or college/postsecondary programs as part of the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. More than 360,000 students and advisors join SkillsUSA annually, organized into more than 18,000 sections and 53 state and territorial associations.
LOCAL STUDENTS GRADUATE FROM MGH INSTITUTE OF HEALTH PROFESSIONS IN BOSTON
The following students received a degree from MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston.
* Yovianna García Alvarado, who lives in Chelsea, received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
* Eva Wong Trinh, who lives in Chelsea, received a Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree.
* Joshua Merson, who grew up in Chelsea, received a Master of Science in Health Professions Education degree.
Flor Amaya, who grew up in Chelsea, received a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.
* Mariolino Fernandes, who grew up in Chelsea , received a Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree.
They were among the 583 students in the Class of 2018 who graduated from the Boston health sciences graduate school in May. The MGH Institute has educated more than 7,700 health care professionals since its 1977 founding. About MGH Institute of Health Professions Team-based care, delivered by clinicians skilled in collaboration and communication, leads to better outcomes for patients and clients. That’s why MGH Institute of Health Professions makes interprofessional learning a cornerstone of all its programs. Approximately 1,600 students at its Charlestown Navy Yard campus in Boston learn and collaborate in teams across disciplines as they pursue post-baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees in nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, physician assistant studies, speech-language pathology, health professions education, and a PhD in rehabilitation sciences. The interprofessional learning module extends to hundreds of hospital, clinical, community, and educational sites throughout Greater Boston and beyond. The MGH Institute, which has graduated more than 7,700 students since it was founded in 1977, is the only degree-granting affiliate of Partners HealthCare, New England’s largest health provider. It is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Several programs are highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report. For the past four years, the IHP has been named to the Honor Roll in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Great College to Work For” annual survey, and has been named a Great College for eight consecutive years.
CHELSEA STUDENTS ON DEAN’S LIST AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY
Two Chelsea residents have recently been named to the Dean’s List at Boston University for the Spring semester.
Students recognized for this honor include: Sara Beqo, Lia C. Ring.
Each school and college at Boston University has their own criterion for the Dean’s List, but students generally must attain a 3.5 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale), or be in the top 30 percent of their class, as well as a full course load as a full time student.
LOCAL STUDENTS RECEIVE DEGREE FROM SIMMONS COLLEGE
The following local students recently earned a degree from Simmons College in Boston.
* Meta Partenheimer, of Chelsea, earned a Master of Science in Library and Information Science (Archives Management).
* Kirsten Goodman, of Chelsea , earned a Master of Science in Nursing (Family Nurse Practitioner).
* Maria Pelosi, of Chelsea , earned a Master of Social Work
Simmons College ( www.simmons.edu ) is a nationally recognized private college located in the heart of Boston. Founded in 1899, Simmons is the only undergraduate women’s college in Boston, and maintains a history of visionary thinking and a focus on social responsibility. Follow Simmons on Twitter at @SimmonsCollege and @SimmonsNews.
ROMERO NAMED TO SIMMONS COLLEGE DEAN’S LIST
Dariela Lizbeth Romero, Chelsea was named to the 2018 spring semester dean’s list at Simmons College in Boston.
Simmons College ( www.simmons.edu ) is a nationally recognized private college located in the heart of Boston. Founded in 1899, Simmons is the only undergraduate women’s college in Boston, and maintains a history of visionary thinking and a focus on social responsibility. Follow Simmons on Twitter at @SimmonsCollege and @SimmonsNews.
The Healthy Chelsea Coalition has just launched a new website.
Heathy Chelsea was founded in 2010 when obesity was identified as the city’s top health concern through a community health needs assessment (CHNA) conducted by Mass General’s Center for Community Health Improvement.
Two years later, the coalition voted to expand its focus as residents and community partners identified substance use and its effects, including violence and public safety, as the city’s top health concern. From its inception, Healthy Chelsea has enjoyed substantial support from City leadership including the City Manager, Director of Health and Human Services, the School Department, Chelsea Police Dept. and others.
Through the new website, Jennifer Kelly, Director of Healthy Chelsea, is “excited to showcase all the great work that we are doing with our community partners. We also hope to educate residents about our programs and to encourage their participation in these important efforts.”
Coalition priorities featured on the site center around healthy eating and living strategies in both the schools and larger community; the Youth Food Movement (YFM) internship program, which allows high school and middle school students to advocate for higher-quality food in their school; promoting a trauma sensitive city; increasing community connection; and, a relatively new initiative focused on early childhood development.
Kelly is especially happy to talk about the recently funded youth substance use prevention work. Through a federal Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant and state Substance Abuse Prevention Collaborative (SAPC) initiative, the coalition has hired two new staff members who are engaging youth and parents while also working with various community partners to implement proven strategies to reduce substance use disorders.
Healthy Chelsea is supported by the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI).
Mass General’s Vice President of Community Health, Joan Quinlan, said, “We are so proud of the work that Healthy Chelsea is doing and of our strong partnership with the Chelsea community. Now, with the launch of their new website, everyone can learn more about their programs and the significant impact they are making.”
Kelly added, “It’s wonderful to be able to promote what can happen when residents and community partners come together for the health and well-being of their community.”
Visit http://www.healthychelsea.org to learn more about their focus areas and programs; staff profiles; community partners; news and upcoming events; and, much more.
Karu the parakeet, sitting on Alexis Slowey’s shoulder during the annual Chelsea MGH Health Center’s Family Summer Fair on Saturday, June 16, at the Center. The fun, family event also saw MGH raffle off 20 new bikes to lucky children.
Hallmark Health System, a regional leader in providing community healthcare in north suburban Boston, has changed its name to MelroseWakefield Healthcare.
“It has been a time of important growth and positive momentum for our organization,” said Bobbi Carbone, MD, MBA, interim president and CEO of MelroseWakefield Healthcare. “Healthcare is changing and so are we. Our new brand is reflective of that change. Specifically, as a system of care, including our hospitals and our community providers, we are focused on bringing more services to our communities to keep high-quality care local and affordable for the convenience of our patients.”
The new visual identity is complementary to the Tufts Medical Center identity and aligns MelroseWakefield Healthcare with a bold new logo mark using the same fonts and colors to demonstrate our growing clinical relationship and efforts to bring high-level specialty care to the local communities.
Importantly, the names of our local hospitals, MelroseWakefield Hospital and Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford, do not change. Our communities and patients greatly value their local relationships. Each hospital will proudly display its local name with its own logo mark that are also complementary to the Tufts Medical Center identity, and by doing so will more clearly communicate the services provided throughout our region of care.
“Our new MelroseWakefield Healthcare brand is designed to give our collective hospitals greater focus and strengthen the connection between our hospital-based services and our communities. It is the result of a comprehensive process to understand what will set us apart in a region with many healthcare providers to choose from,” said Dr. Carbone.
“Patients as well as physicians are noticing the impact that we are making on community-based care,” said Steven Sbardella, MD, chief medical officer at MelroseWakefield Healthcare. “Through our recent investments in services and our growing clinical affiliation with Tufts Medical Center and Wellforce, we’ve brought more advanced specialty services to our hospitals such as neurosurgery, robotic surgery and advanced cardiovascular and cancer services. We are investing in our maternity suites based on the growing needs of women and families and announced plans for a state-of-the-art ambulatory surgery center in Medford as a joint venture with Shields Health Care.”
“Bringing Tufts Medical Center physicians to provide care with us in our communities continues to be tremendous for getting the people of our community convenient advanced levels of care without having to travel into Boston,” he said.
MelroseWakefield Healthcare has also unveiled a new website, www.melrosewakefield.org. It features the many services offered by MelroseWakefield Healthcare in a contemporary, user-friendly design that will support the growth of the new brand. The site was developed based on extensive competitive analysis and adheres to best practices for web design.
About MelroseWakefield Healthcare
MelroseWakefield Healthcare is a coordinated system of hospitals, physician practices and community-based services providing care for communities throughout north suburban Boston. We are distinguished by the range of clinical care and services we provide locally for the continuum of care, including community hospitals in Melrose and Medford, urgent care locations in Reading and Medford, outpatient services including physical therapy, imaging and radiology, lab services and wellness education, more than 90 community physicians, who are part of Tufts Medical Center Community Care (formerly Hallmark Health Medical Associates), providing primary care and specialty care, and visiting nurse and hospice care.
MelroseWakefield Healthcare is a founding member of Wellforce, along with Tufts Medical Center and Circle Health. For more information, visit www.melrosewakefield.org.
Another harsh New England winter has thankfully come to an end. As the colder time of year comes to a close, allergy season is right around the corner. Itchy and watery eyes, runny noses, coughing and sneezing, and pollen make for a difficult few months for many as we all try to enjoy the outdoors and warmer weather.
More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. In order to prepare for seasonal allergies, CHA ENT physician Ayesha Khalid, MD, FACS and Jaime Silva, PA-C, at CHA Cambridge Hospital, provide an update on what to expect this season by answering several common questions.
Are allergies the same for everyone?
People’s pollen allergies can vary between seasons. However, some allergies can last throughout the year if they are allergic to dust mites, animal dander, and molds.
What is the difference between allergies and a cold?
Allergy symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, and nose are triggered by histamine. A cold is a viral infection.
How are allergies treated?
Allergies are usually treated with medications known as antihistamines. Some symptoms can be treated with nasal steroids or pseudoephedrine. If allergy symptoms are not well controlled with medication or if symptoms last throughout the year allergy shots or allergy drops can be considered.
What other strategies can people use?
Studies show effective measures of controlling dust or pet dander allergy symptoms include eliminating carpets and rugs in the bedroom, dust covers for pillow cases, and a HEPA filter near the bed.
What else can people do to survive allergy season? Are there home remedies?
Rinsing the allergens out of your nasal passages and sinuses with a saline rinse that can be purchased over the counter can be helpful. This also helps moisturize your nasal passages if you are using a nasal spray for allergies.
If your symptoms tend to be harsh or worsen please consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor today. Also, here are a few additional resources provided by the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services.
About Cambridge Health Alliance
Cambridge Health Alliance is an academic community health system committed to providing high quality care in Cambridge, Somerville and Boston’s metro-north communities. CHA has expertise in primary care, specialty care and mental health/substance use services, as well as caring for diverse and complex populations. It includes three hospital campuses, a network of primary care and specialty practices and the Cambridge Public Health Dept. CHA patients have seamless access to advanced care through the system’s affiliation with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. CHA is a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate and is also affiliated with Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard School of Dental Medicine and Tufts University School of Medicine. For more information, visit www.challiance.org.
After many years of working closely with the communities of Revere, Chelsea and Charlestown on public health issues, Leslie Aldrich was recently announced as the new executive director for the Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) at Mass General Hospital – the umbrella organization that includes Healthy Chelsea.
Aldrich has been working at CCHI for the past 19 years, and most recently as the associate executive director to Joan Quinlan, who has taken on the role of vice president for community health at MGH.
“I think it’s very exciting and I’m happy to move into this role,” she said. “Nineteen years ago when I started the work was a lot smaller scale…As the executive director, I’ll really be continuing to build on the foundation we’ve had for the Center in our communities and making sure it remains robust…Public health has really blossomed in the last five to six years as we’ve realized that prevention has to be key to everything we’re doing. It’s a big means for reducing health care costs as well.”
Aldrich has been a face of the overall organizations in Revere, Charlestown and Chelsea for several years, especially in helping with the needs assessments that the hospital conducts with the public and community – something that become much more important after the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). Those assessments drive what organizations like RevereCARES, Healthy Chelsea and The Charlestown Coalition focus on.
In Charlestown, focusing on substance abuse has been critical for a long time, but after a needs assessment in 2012, evidence showed that Chelsea and Revere felt substance abuse issues were the public’s main concern. That happened long before an official “epidemic” had been proclaimed, and it was the ground work that led to many of the things done today.
“When we did the needs assessment in 2012, it was front and center everywhere,” she said. “Charlestown had been working on that for 10 years previously, but that concern spread everywhere. The communities told us Substance Abuse Disorder was front and center the number one issue facing them. We brought that data and those concerns to the hospital and that’s when substance abuse disorder really became a priority for Mass General…The culture, with the help of the community, helped transform how a major hospital dictates care. It’s pretty incredible. That’s what happens when you bring the resident’s voices in to make a difference. It’s a huge motivator.”
Aldrich also played a key role in working on the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health prize that the City won last year. She said the work there, and other such ventures, really sets Chelsea apart as a place where MGH can collaborate in a big way.
“Chelsea is a huge example of how collaboration works, especially with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation award,” she said. “That’s really what you try to achieve – changing the culture of the community. That was a huge accolade.”
In Chelsea, Aldrich will help usher in the new drug-free communities coalition that Heathy Chelsea has just received.
“They will now be looking at substance use prevention in a more foundational way,” she said.
Aldrich has already begun her role at the CCHI and looks forward to remaining active in the communities.
Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), an academic community health-system serving Everett and Boston’s metro-north region, is teaming up with the North Suffolk Mental Health Association (NSMHA) to help get individuals struggling with addiction connected to treatment by piloting a new recovery-coach program at CHA Everett Hospital. Two coaches from NSMHA are now available to patients who struggle with addiction or present with mental health issues in the Emergency Department, inpatient psychiatry and CHA’s med-surg units.
The total number of estimated and confirmed opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts, through the first nine months of 2017, was over 1,400 – a 10-percent reduction from the same period in 2016. At the same time, from 2012 – 2016, over 70 people in Everett died from opioid misuse.
The pilot program places recovery coaches in direct contact with patients, on a voluntary basis, following an overdose reversal with naloxone, the lifesaving anti-opioid medication. The aim is to link individuals to treatment and recovery services locally. Other patients may present with medical conditions related to substance use and the recovery coach can use this opportunity to engage the patient in treatment.
“A recovery coach is a person who helps remove personal and environmental obstacles to recovery, noted Kim Hanton, director of addiction services at the North Suffolk Mental Health Association.”
“Coaches serve as personal guides and mentors supporting individual and family recovery where support networks are limited. NSMHA has incorporated this model throughout the addiction division since 2013. We are thrilled to partner with CHA sharing each of our expertise to build a continuum of support which begins at the most vulnerable time – entrance into the emergency department”
CHA’s chief of emergency medicine, Benjamin Milligan, MD, and a group of providers in the Emergency Department, including Josh Mularella, DO, Emily Adams, PA, and Christine Trotta, PA, ran the Boston Marathon last year and dollars raised through their efforts helped to fund the pilot initiative.
NSMHA’s recovery coaches are trained and certified professionals who guide or mentor patients seeking recovery support from alcohol and other drug addictions. Recovery coaches do not provide clinical services, instead they offer the critical support or link to the services and resources that a person needs to achieve and sustain recovery.
“We are excited to have recovery coaches embedded at CHA Everett Hospital and believe they will strengthen the hospital’s role as a link in patient’s long-term ‘chain of recovery,’” commented Melisa Lai- Becker, MD, site chief of emergency medicine at CHA Everett Hospital. “The ability to partner a patient immediately with a peer who is able to help them navigate to the next link in the chain is invaluable. We are optimistic that the program will have a lasting impact and we may expand the initiative in the future providing a model for a potential statewide network of peer recovery coaches.”
Immediate support when a crisis occurs is vital for effective engagement in recovery and treatment. When a patient arrives at the CHA Everett Hospital Emergency Department he/she is offered a NSMHA recovery coach during peak hours (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
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 an Op-Ed that appeared in State News on Monday, Dec. 18, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren called House Republicans onto the carpet for halting federal funding to the nation’s Community Health Centers like East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) while working on cutting taxes for the ‘wealthy”.
“I love community health centers,” Warren wrote. “They do wonderful work and enjoy widespread support. But I’m worried because Republican leaders in Congress have held these centers hostage by halting federal funding while they focus on passing tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s past time to step up the fight for community health centers in my state of Massachusetts and across the country.”
Warren argued that community health centers, like EBNHC, are a big part of what’s working well in health care today — more coverage at lower cost.
“They are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic,” she wrote. “They provide preventive services and chronic disease management. They are taking the stigma out of mental health treatment. And they save money by promoting disease prevention, providing care coordination, and reducing the use of hospital emergency rooms.”
On Sept. 30, Warren said Congress blew past a major funding deadline for community health centers — a reauthorization of the Community Health Center Fund.
“This program provides more than 70 percent of all federal funding for health centers,” she wrote. “Reauthorizing this program should be a no-brainer, and many of my Republican colleagues agree with that. But Republican leadership has been so focused on stripping health care coverage from many of the people who walk through the doors of community health centers that they ran right past this deadline — and they’ve just kept on running.”
Community health centers across the country are feeling the impact.
“They are holding back on hiring new staff or deferring opportunities to make vital improvements to their programs. If they don’t get this funding soon, they’ll have to make even tougher decisions, like laying off staff members, cutting services, or reducing hours,” she wrote. “In East Boston, which is geographically isolated from the rest of the city, the community health center operates an emergency room that is open around the clock.People who work in community health centers know that health care is a basic human right. The dedicated doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals at these sites take incredible care of families from every background. And they’re always looking for ways they can better serve their patients and their community. But community health centers can’t do this much-needed work if the federal government doesn’t keep its promises.”
Warren said tax cuts for billionaires shouldn’t come ahead of making sure that children, pregnant women, people in need of addiction treatment, veterans, and other vulnerable populations have access to health care.
“I’ll keep fighting for community health centers and for all of these health care programs that have improved the lives of people in my state and every other state,” she wrote. “I believe everyone deserves access to affordable, high-quality health care. Community health centers excel at providing that care — and they deserve our support.”
EBNHC recently hosted Sen. Warren were she saw first hand the important work that the Health Center and its staff does on a daily basis.
“We were obviously so pleased to host Senator Warren on her visit tour to the Health Center and we are glad she is fighting hard for Community Health Centers like ours across the country,” said Snyder.