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.
In the last meeting of the year for the City Council, members voted in several new appointments and re-appointments to City boards – including the approval of long-time activist Gladys Vega to sit on the Planning Board.
Vega received a 10-0 vote with Councillor Giovanni Recupero being absent for all the appointment votes.
Vega said she was looking to get more active in the City’s committees, especially since there has been a call for more people to fill the volunteer – yet critical – roles. She said she planned to become increasingly active in City matters in the coming years if all goes well on the Planning Board.
Meanwhile, Chelsea Housing Chair Tom Standish stepped down from the Board after a monumental and tremendous job in his role as chair for the past several years.
Former CHA Board member Bert Taverna was voted in 10-0 to replace Standish.
Standish was one of the first members of the new Board appointed by the state and former City Manager Jay Ash when the CHA went into receivership following the Michael McLaughlin scandal.
Standish was a solid presence on the Board in the years following the scandal, helping to put the once-troubled CHA back onto solid footing after the fleecing done by McLaughlin to virtually every part of the organization.
Standish led the Board throughout the difficult process, and helped to take it from a troubled agency to a top performer.
After those two appointments, there was Council politics that entered the room, with Councillor Damali Vidot clashing with Councillor Roy Avellaneda on the nine re-appointments.
Vidot has been a staunch advocate for getting new and different people on the City’s boards and said she discovered in the Charter that the City is required to advertise open Board and Commission seats. However, due to an oversight, that hasn’t been done in some time.
Avellaneda disputed that such a thing was in the Charter, and read Section 4 that did not include any such language.
However, after some tussling between members, City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it is in Section 9 of the Charter and it was an oversight. He said he will begin to advertise quarterly any openings in the English and Spanish-language newspapers.
To make a point, Vidot voted against all nine re-appointments, which were mostly non-controversial and resulted in 9-1 votes of approval.
Planning Board member Todd Taylor did elicit some controversy, as he was approved by a vote of 7-3, with Councillors Judith Garcia, Vidot and Avellaneda voting against him.
Those voted in on a 9-1 vote were:
Olivier del Melle, Dudley Street, Planning Board
Emmanuel Tellez, Broadway, Board of Health
Robert Pereira, Gerrish Avenue, Historical Commission (replacing Ilana Ascher)
George Pazos, Union Street, Traffic & Parking Commission
Marlene Jennings, Breakwater Drive, Cultural Council
Mark Rossi, Clark Avenue, License Commission
Robert Lynch, Shawmut Street, Conservation Commission
The holidays present a unique month-long time of the year when people often can find themselves in a much different pattern than during the rest of the year. Such changes can often lead to unhealthy behaviors or illnesses – and triggers for those struggling with overeating disorders or substance use disorders.
Going into the holidays with a plan and a watchful eye – from the dinner table to the kids’ toys – is a necessity.
To learn how to stay healthy during this unique time of year, why not ask the best?
Dr. David Roll, a primary care physician for all ages and the medical director at the CHA Revere and CHA Everett Primary Care practices, was recently named on of the region’s Top Doctors in the Boston Magazine December issue. The annual list looks at top doctors in every specialty and in primary care as well.
Roll said he is fortunate to have a good team around him, and that is crucial in medical care delivery.
“I’m very fortunate to have a great team in Cambridge Health Alliance and at our clinics in Everett and Revere, with a great range of physicians, physician assistants, nurses and other staff to help improve the health of our communities,” he said. “Medicine today is a team sport and there are no top doctors without top teams.”
From the area’s Top Doctor, here are some things to watch for on the holidays as it relates to one’s health.
Q: Many people find it hard to stay healthy over the holidays. There are numerous flus, colds and other maladies that are brought into parties and celebrations. What are the best precautions to take over the holidays?
A: I make sure everyone in my family gets a flu shot and I advise all my patients to do the same. It’s not possible to get the flu from the shots we use today. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for the kids and grandparents in your family, who could end up in the hospital if they get the flu from you. Also, cover your cough and wash your hands frequently – simple but important.
Q: Food and the holidays are literally tied at the hip. For a lot of people, keeping to a diet or keeping a healthy eating pattern is difficult. What do you recommend?
A: It’s all about balance. If you’re snacking more during the day, take a small plate for dinner. If you’re planning for a big holiday meal, eat light and drink lots of water throughout the day. If you want to try everything, take a bite or two of each dish.
Q: Everyone always talks about post-holiday depression. Is that really a thing? If so, how can people prepare for it and do they need to?
A: I think it’s real. Sometimes people feel there’s nothing to look forward to after a long-awaited vacation and time with family. One solution is to schedule an event or a long weekend two or three weeks after the holiday – something else to look forward to. As the new year approaches, you might also want to think about scheduling your annual physical for 2018, to talk with your care team or schedule any health screenings that are overdue.
Q: Is it an old wives tale that one can get sick by going out in the cold without a hat and coat, or is there some medical soundness to that old claim?
A: It’s mostly myth. Cold temperatures and dry air make a slightly more hospitable environment for some viruses in your nose and throat. But colds are caused by viruses and the main reason people get more colds in the winter is spending more time indoors with other people.
Q: What are some of the common holiday-associated problems that patients have presented to you and your staff over the years?
A: This time of year we see a lot of people worried about a persistent cough. Most people aren’t aware that the average duration of a cough is about 18 days. Usually it can be controlled with home remedies or over-the-counter medications, and it rarely requires antibiotics. At the CHA Revere Care Center, we offer sick visits Monday-Friday and Saturdays until 1 p.m., to help people who need to been seen for an illness.
Q: Are there signs that parents should watch for in their children both before, during and after the holidays?
A: Aside from the usual respiratory and stomach viruses, this is the time of year when food, fuel, and housing insecurity have their sharpest sting, and disproportionately affect our most vulnerable patients, especially the young and the old. For those who can, it’s a great time to think about donating to local food pantries and supporting the services that are most needed in the winter.
Q: Substance abuse can invade the holidays for some people. How do you address that with patients who struggle with substance use disorders?
A: If you’re in recovery, make a party plan in advance for those high-risk or high-stress occasions: Go late, leave early, and take a sober friend along. If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The assistance you need may be as close as a friend, a coworker, your doctor’s office at Cambridge Health Alliance, or one of our partners in the community.
Q: There are a lot of toys and gifts that can be harmful or dangerous to children. Should parents think about toy safety over the holidays, or is that overdoing it?
A: Well-meaning family and friends often give gifts that are not appropriate to a child’s age. Age limits are on toys for a reason, mostly to prevent younger children from choking on small parts. In the end, there is no substitute for parental supervision, especially with small children and small toys. Also, if you gift a bike or skateboard, buy the protective gear to go with it.
Q: What is your favorite holiday treat?
A: I love date bars, just like my mother used to make. It’s one of those rich treats you have to balance with good eating, especially if you can’t resist a second trip to the dessert tray.
Gov. Charlie Baker signed a capital bond bill on Tuesday that increases bond authorization by $244 million to support initiatives across the Commonwealth, including construction of a new long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.
“This bill funds critical projects across the Commonwealth, including the Last Mile broadband project and money for the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home renovation project,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We thank the Legislature for bringing us one step closer to updating the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home for our veterans.”
The bond legislation signed Tuesday includes $199 million to replace the long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, which is expected to be partially reimbursed by the federal government pending final approval from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill also directs the administration to study the long-term needs of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke.
“The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea provides comprehensive, quality health care and residential services with honor, dignity and respect to the Commonwealth’s veterans,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “The upgrades to the Soldiers’ Home ensure that the physical plant meets modern health care requirements commensurate with the needs of our veterans.”
On May 31, Gov. Baker filed egislation to address immediate capital needs statewide, including $950 million for higher education projects, $880 million for construction, renovations, and accessibility improvements at state office buildings, $700 million for health and human services facilities, $550 million for public safety facilities and $375 million for court facilities. While the legislation signed Tuesday includes authorization for the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, several items from this bill remain pending.
“We are pleased to see authorization for the replacement of the Quigley Hospital at Chelsea Soldiers’ Home passed, which was proposed in our capital budget plan,” said Administration and Finance Secretary Michael J. Heffernan. “By leveraging the use of significant federal resources to build the new facility, we optimize the value of the Commonwealth’s capital investment in this project.”
On Oct. 4 at 8;12 a.m., a male subject was placed into custody after he was observed entering and checking motor vehicle door handles by police in the MGH Clinic parking lot, located at 151 Everett Ave. No stolen property located on his person.
Egno Silva, 26, of Beverly, was charged with Breaking and Entering in the day for a felony.
THAT’S MY SPOT!
On Oct. 6 at 6:43 p.m., officers responded to 827 Broadway on a past assault involving neighbors. Officers were advised that one of the involved may be in possession of a knife. Officers determined it was an argument over a parking space with one of the participants claiming she was threatened with a knife.
Officers placed the subject under arrested for the assault.
Luz Rodriguez, 55, of 835 Broadway, was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery.
NO ALARM CAN WAKE HIM UP
On Oct. 7 at 2 a.m., officers responded to the area of Greg’s Service Center located at 51 Park St. on the report of a car alarm going off and not stopping.
Officers observed a male party who was passed out in a truck on the property. The subject was placed under arrest after stating he entered the truck to sleep for the night.
James Sullivan, 23, of 101 Park St., was charged with breaking and entering in the night for a felony and one warrant.
REVERE MAN SENTENCED FOR BANK ROBBERY SPREE
A Revere man was sentenced Oct. 11 in federal court in Boston for robbing 10 banks during a 19-day spree from late December 2016 to early January 2017.
He was arrested in Chelsea on Jan. 7, and confessed to robbing the banks.
Fred Mandracchia, 36, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs to 100 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution of $16,695 to the banks he robbed. In July 2017, Mandracchia HYPERLINK “https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/pr/revere-man-pleads-guilty-multiple-bank-robberies” pleaded guilty to 10 counts of bank robbery
Following a Jan. 3, 2017, robbery of the Mechanics Cooperative Bank branch in Fall River, law enforcement identified Mandracchia as the individual responsible for that robbery. Based on similarities in the robberies and the physical description of the perpetrator, Mandracchia was suspected to have also been involved in nine other Boston-area bank robberies.
On Oct. 8 at 11:25 p.m., officers were dispatched to the 7-11 store at Broadway and Williams for a report of an unwanted party. The male party had been previously given a no trespass order by the store. Upon arrival officers observed the male harassing customers at the entrance. He was placed into custody at the scene.
Daniel Humphreys, 37, of 855 Broadway, was charged with resisting arrest and trespassing.
PRESCRPITION DRUG TAKE BACK DAY
City Manager Thomas Ambrosino and Police Chief Brian Kyes are again hosting the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday October28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Chelsea Police Headquarters. This national program aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications. The public is asked not to dispose of any items listed on the front of the kiosk such as needles, auto-injectors such as epi-pens or flammable objects. There is a separate container to dispose of sharps.
Additionally, the citizens of Chelsea are reminded that this public collection kiosk at Police Headquarters is available for anonymous use 365 days a year.
Hector Lopez, 38, 88 Williams St., Chelsea, was arrested on a warrant.
Okbay Bahatu, 32, 318 Chestnut St., Chelsea, was arrested on a warrant and possessing alcoholic beverage.
Egno Silva, 26, 338 Rantour St., Beverly, was arrested for breaking and entering daytime.
Dania Lopez, 21, 48 Watts St., Chelsea, was arrested for a warrant, unregistered motor vehicle, not in possession of license, registration not in possession.
Alexandria Vega, 33, 342 Blue Ledge Dr., Boston, was arrested for common nightwalker.
Nicole Skillin, 40, 2 Rice St., Saugus, was arrested for sexual conduct for fee and warrant.
Elvedina Sejdinovic, 23, 39 Crescent Ave, Chelsea, was arrested on a warrant.
Luz Rodriguez, 55, 835 Broadway, Chelsea, was arrested for assault with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery.
James Sullivan, 23, 101 Park St., Chelsea, was arrested for breaking and entering nighttime and on a warrant.
Jorge Izaguirre, 21, 72 Fremont Ave., Chelsea, was arrested for operating under the influence of liquor and possession open container of alcohol in motor vehicle.
Miguel Hernandez, 53, 104 Library St., Chelsea, was arrested for operating under the influence of liquor.
Picardy Lamour, 24, 7 Murray St., Chelsea, was arrested for operating under the influence of liquor and leaving scene of property damage.
John Londono, 28, 186 Chester Ave., Chelsea, was arrested for operating under the influence ofliquor, flashing red light violation.
Daniel Humphreys, 37, 855 Broadway, Chelsea, was arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest.
Chelsea is one of eight winners of the 2017 RWJF Culture of Health Prize awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Prize honors communities for their unwavering efforts to ensure all residents have the opportunity to live healthier lives.
Chelsea is being nationally recognized for pursuing innovative ideas and bringing partners together to rally around a shared vision of health. Chosen from more than 200 applicant communities across the country, Chelsea’s award winning efforts include: reducing diesel emissions, collaborating to open up the city’s waterfront, providing services to the city’s most vulnerable, ensuring Chelsea is a welcoming community for all, tackling public health issues such as substance use and trauma, and engaging and empowering the city’s youth in environmental and food justice projects.
“So many residents, city leaders, businesses and community partners have come together to make Chelsea a healthier, more just community in which to live,” says Roseann Bongiovanni, Executive Director of GreenRoots and lifelong resident. “I am so grateful to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for recognizing those efforts with the prestigious Culture of Health Award. It exemplifies a whole community coming together for the betterment of our people, our environment, our future.”
“For the past five years, RWJF Culture of Health Prize communities have inspired hope across the country. We welcome these new eight Prize communities who are forging partnerships to improve health for their residents,” said Richard Besser, MD, RWJF president and CEO. “There are now 35 prize-winning communities across the country that are thinking big, building on their strengths, and engaging residents as equal partners to tackle the problems that they see.”
“Being nationally recognized for this work, despite the many health challenges this community has faced and that still exist, is a reflection of the community’s resilience and commitment to one another,” said Leslie Aldrich, Associate Director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Community Health Improvement. “The friendships and partnerships that have been forged in the effort to make Chelsea a healthier place to live are true and lasting and what make Chelsea such a unique community.”
Chelsea will receive a $25,000 cash prize, join a network of Prize-winning communities and have their inspiring accomplishments shared throughout the nation. The other seven winning communities are: Algoma, Wisconsin; Allen County, Kansas; Garrett County, Maryland; Richmond, Virginia; San Pablo, California, Seneca Nation of Indians in western New York, and Vicksburg, Mississippi.
The state of Massachusetts now has the greatest number of Prize winning communities. Past winners include: Cambridge (2013), Fall River (2013), Everett (2015), Lawrence (2015).
To become an RWJF Culture of Health Prize winner, Chelsea had to demonstrate how it excelled in the following six criteria:
Defining health in the broadest possible terms.
Committing to sustainable systems changes and policy-oriented long-term solutions.
Cultivating a shared and deeply-held belief in the importance of equal opportunity for health
Harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners, and community members.
Securing and making the most of available resources.
Measuring and sharing progress and results.
“I am so very proud of the City and all of its non-profit partners,” says Tom Ambrosino, Chelsea’s City Manager. “This prestigious award from Robert Wood Johnson serves to confirm the incredible, collaborative work that occurs daily in this community to improve the health and well-being of its residents.”
Chelsea will join this year’s other Prize winning communities at the Culture of Health Prize Celebration and Learning Event at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey on October 11-12.
Learn more about Chelsea’s work, as well as this year’s other Prize winners through a collection videos, photos, and more at www.rwjf.org/Prize.
EBNHC CMO Dr. Jackie Fantes and EBNHC CEO Manny Lopes present U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren with a gift.
Last week the Democrats had a huge victory as the U.S. Senate failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obama Care. While there was much to celebrate as several Republicans, like Senator John McCain, cast votes against the Senate bill to repeal Obama Care, Senate Democrats like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren say the fight is ongoing and Obama Care is still under attack by many Republicans in the House and Senate.
Warren was back in Massachusetts Monday and toured the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, a place that long before Obama Care offered quality health care to people of all ages, races and backgrounds regardless of their ability to pay.
Warren toured both the Health Center’s Gove Street and Maverick Square facilities and ended her tour with a roundtable discussion where she heard from health care providers, patients and partners of EBNHC.
“I want to thank Senator Warren and her team for visiting the Health Center today,” said EBNHC CEO Manny Lopes. “We are so happy about the work she has done to help the lives of individuals that don’t have a voice but also her work to protect the Affordable Care Act and making sure people living in this country not only have access to coverage but access to high quality health care. On our door it says ‘All Are Welcome’ and we continue to provide service to anybody who walks through our doors regardless of their ability to pay and we have stayed true to that statement.”
Warren heard testimony from EBNHC different departments and programs that have helped improve the lives of countless residents in Eastie and the surrounding communities. Whether its the Health Center’s PACE program that helps seniors live at home independently, EBNHC highly successful pediatrics department and school based health care program to cutting edge metal health and substance abuse programs, Warren said she was beyond impressed with the team at the Health Center and the services they have been able to provide to thousands of low-income residents that would otherwise be left without stable health care.
Warren also heard from patients who have benefitted from EBNHC’s quality care and programs with one patient saying she passed up the chance to purchase a nice house for a good price north of Eastie because she feared her and her family would not get the same quality health care outside of the neighborhood.
For her part, Warren thanked the Health Center staff and board for being on the front lines and being a shinning example of everything that is right with quality affordable health care.
“I just wanted to come by today (Monday) and thank all of you,” said Warren. “An amazing thing happen last week. We were able to save health care for millions of Americans across the country. I just want to be clear that this has been a hard fight and we’ve been in this fight for a very very long time.”
Warren said the fight really began following Obama Care’s passage and then having to defend expanded health care coverage to millions of Americans day after day.
“When this year started we didn’t have the votes to stop the repeal but what we did have is people from all over this country that got into the fight including people like you from our Community Health Center,” said Warren. “You got into the fight in different ways. One of those ways was just by doing what you do every day and showing America that this is the way we can provide high quality health care to all of our people.”
When arguing on the Senate floor, Warren said she points to Community Health Centers as the shining stars of what works in the the health care industry.
“Every time I hear the arguments that costs are rising or things are not working I say ‘take a look at our Community Health Centers’,” said Warren. “EBNHC is one of the best examples of how affordable quality health care can be delivered to thousands of people every day.”
Warren said the Senate Republican’s failure to repeal Obama Care was a triumph for democracy.
“Enough people from across America said ‘health care is a basic human right, and we will stand up and fight for basic human rights’,” said Warren. “This is not a partisan issue, it’s a human issue and I think that is powerfully important to realize.”
Over the national debate of whether or not to repeal Obama Care, Warren said something magical happened across America.
“America believes in health care coverage, maybe not everyone, but I think there has been a huge shift and people are seeing health care as a basic human right,” said Warren. “Also, in the first time in its 52 year existence we talked openly about Medicare. We put a human face on Medicare and talk about who gets Medicare and why they get Medicare and why Medicare is so important. People are realizing that Medicare is not about ‘some others’ but about all of us as human beings and it was important to talk about the faces of Medicare and the people that are touched by Medicare. I think now much of America has a better understanding not only of how health insurance affects our health care system but how Medicare and Medicaid are an equally important component of that system.”
In the end Warren said the fight to preserve Obama Care is not over.
“This fight is not over and it can come back at any moment,” said Warren. “There are still those across the country that want to fight to roll back health care coverage. We have to be vigilant and we can not move backwards or lose focus in this fight. People like Manny (Lopes), Senator (Joseph) Boncore and people from across Massachusetts have been in this fight and standing shoulder to shoulder by showing up at rallies, sending emails and texts and making calls. You’ve done everything to say I want my voice heard in this big national health care debate.”
“I came here today to just say it has been an honor to work alongside all of you,” she added.
Last week, the US Senate tried to undo the Affordable Care Act or Obama Care. This system while it is not perfect and as a matter of fact it is far from the mark, still it provides a safety net for literally millions of Americans who would not otherwise be able to afford any health care.
What a sad commentary it is about our country and our leaders that in spite of our leading medical care that thousands of world citizens come here to use and yet for too many Americans, medical insurance still remains out of reach. As a result, these same Americans are forced to wait – sometimes too long – to take advantage of our medical care that could save their lives.
What brings this to mind is that on Monday, US Senator Elizabeth Warren was in East Boston to praise the work of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. For decades, this health center has been delivering care to many low-income residents who lack insurance but are in need of medical help. This center has helped thousands to cure a simple disease before it becomes progressively worse and possibly terminal.
Given all the rhetoric that is coming out about repealing or keeping the Affordable Care Act, our elected officials should look at the success of health providers like the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. The Center is located in an area that is serving a clientele that is below the national income average and in many cases first generation Americans who are struggling to raise a family and make financial ends meet. Yet, these same Americans are receiving quality healthcare at a price that they can afford.
It would be too simplistic to say that the model that is now being used at the Center can fit all areas of our country. However, it can fit many areas that are urban and poor. If this system works here, why should it not work elsewhere? The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center model could be one piece of solving the puzzle of affordable health care.
The quote from Boston political legend and former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Albert “Tip” O’Neil who coined the phrase that “all politics is local,” seems very apt with debate going on about the Affordable Care Act in Washington D.C. and Monday’s visit and remarks from Sen. Warren on the success of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center.