House Approves $200 million for Local Infrastructure Needs

BOSTON – Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) joined his colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass legislation that includes a $200 million bond authorization for Chapter 90 funding to help municipalities like Malden complete road, bridge and infrastructure improvement projects.            

“Chapter 90 funds are essential to providing stability and spurring economic growth in Massachusetts,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said. “That growth starts on the local level. The funding in this bill and the House’s focus on transportation reform are resulting in sustainable, lasting changes.”

“Chapter 90 is an important source of local aid,” said Representative Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill), Chair of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means. “The $200M in funding authorized by the House of Representatives will be delivered early in the construction season and allow many vital municipal road projects to move forward.  Today’s vote demonstrates the House’s commitment to the cities and town’s we represent and ensures they have the needed resources for safe, high-quality roads.”

“The Chapter 90 appropriation will allow the Commonwealth’s cities and towns the means to address the important road and bridge improvements necessary to serve the unique needs of each municipality,” said Representative William M. Straus (D- Mattapoisett), Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. “I am pleased to see it move forward.”

“This state funding provides support to cities like Malden trying to undertake vital infrastructure projects,” said Representative Ultrino. “In an era of tight budgets, every penny counts, and this money will fund some of the much-needed roadwork in our city.”

Ultrino, House Vote for Substance Addiction Legislation; Governor Signs into Law

BOSTON – Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to pass substance addiction legislation that enhances intervention, prevention and education efforts, including the creation of a framework to evaluate and treat patients who present in emergency rooms with an apparent overdose. The bill was signed into law by Governor Charles Baker on Monday.

This new practice, which will be covered by insurance, is designed to ensure the proper assessment and discharge of patients who seek voluntary treatment. If a patient refuses treatment, information on health and community resources will be provided. This framework reflects the 2012 University of Miami Medical School findings that voluntary treatment is more effective and affordable than involuntary commitment.

“We are in the midst of a public health crisis that is draining vitality from our hometowns, extinguishing lives and stealing souls,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop).  “Our focus on workable solutions, consensus-building and legislation that complements our budget investments has set a foundation for continual improvement. I wholeheartedly thank my colleagues for their creative, unassuming and compassionate commitment to paving a path for the recovery of thousands of our loved ones, and in fact, a path for our wounded Commonwealth.”

“The opioid crisis has reached epidemic levels across New England, particularly in Malden and its surrounding communities,” said Representative Ultrino. “This legislation is a major step forward in our battle against substance abuse, providing support to health care providers, public safety officials, and families struggling to overcome addiction.”

The bill limits first-time opiate prescriptions to seven days for adults and all opiate prescriptions for minors to seven days, with exceptions for chronic pain management, cancer, and palliative care. Practitioners must now check the prescription monitoring program (PMP) each time they prescribe any opiate and correspondingly note that in the patient’s medical records.

From its discussions with numerous stakeholders and recovery groups, the Legislature recognizes the importance of empowering individuals as they grapple with addiction. As a result, this bill establishes a non-opiate directive form, allowing patients to include a notation in their records that they shall not be offered opiates. It also provides the option of a “partial fill” which allows patients, in consultation with their doctor, to request a lesser amount than indicated on the script; however, this language is permissive and pharmacists may use their discretion.

In an effort to build upon current prevention efforts, the legislation updates current law - which requires all public schools to have a policy regarding substance abuse education - by directing schools to report their plans to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).  DESE will then consult with the Department of Public Health (DPH) to provide recommendations that will assist schools and ensure they are providing effective and up-to-date education. Additional education materials will be provided to all student-athletes. 

Schools will be required to conduct an annual verbal substance abuse screening in two grade levels. These screenings are subject to appropriation and include an opt-out provision for students and parents. Additionally, school districts implementing alternative substance use screening policies may opt out of the verbal screening tool requirement.

To ensure that unused medications are safely collected and disposed of, this legislation requires manufacturers of controlled substances in Massachusetts to participate in either a drug stewardship program or an alternative plan as determined by DPH.

Over the past few years, the Legislature’s efforts related to substance addiction have focused on behavioral health and the prevalence of co-occurring disorders. This legislation requires the Health Policy Commission to conduct a study on access to dual-diagnosis treatment in the Commonwealth for children, adolescents and adults. To help ensure parity between behavioral and physical health care, the legislation also requires insurance companies to report annually on their denied claims.

This bill also:
•        Requires that contact information for all insurers be posted on the bed-finder tool website and updates the law to ensure the site is available 24 hours a day;
•        Requires that patients being discharged from substance addiction receive information on all FDA-approved medication-assisted therapies;

•        Ensures civil-liability protection for individuals who administer Narcan;
•        Updates the training guidelines for all practitioners who prescribe controlled substances;

This legislation follows a 65.2% increase in substance addiction funding since FY12 and the landmark substance addiction law passed in 2014 which, for the first time, mandated detox and stabilization coverage. The two bills are intended to complement each other and reflect a consensus-driven approach.

State Representative Steve Ultrino Running for Re-Election

“I am running for re-election to continue to fight for the city I love.”

MALDEN – State Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) will seek a second term in the Massachusetts House of Representatives serving the 33rd Middlesex District, which includes most of Malden.

“Two years ago, I decided to run for State Representative because I believe our city deserves a champion for working-class families,” said Representative Ultrino. “Over the last fifteen months, it’s been my privilege to advocate for Malden at the State House. I am running for re-election to continue to fight for the city I love.”

Representative Ultrino touted a number of accomplishments made during his first term, including state investments in the FY2016 budget for Malden schools, parks, and community organizations. The FY16 budget also funded programs aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic, and included an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that has helped thousands of working families living in poverty in Massachusetts.

“I was proud of the money we were able to secure in last year’s budget, but there’s still a lot of work left to do,” said Representative Ultrino, who said he expects to push for increased funding this year for seniors, schools, and local resources. Last year, he led a successful effort in the House to increase funding for Expanded Learning Time grants, of which Malden has been the oldest and one of the largest recipients.

Representative Ultrino serves on the Committee on Elder Affairs, the Committee on Public Health, the Committee on Health Care Financing, and the Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development. He also serves on the board of the Massachusetts Economic Empowerment Trust Fund. Representative Ultrino was elected by his colleagues to serve as president of the House’s freshman class, which includes 22 state representatives serving their first terms.

A lifelong Malden resident, Representative Ultrino served as a City Councilor for two years and a School Committee member for eight years prior to serving in the Legislature. He was a teacher at Malden Catholic High School, headmaster at Saint Mary’s Prep in Winchester, and Director of Education for the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department.

Ultrino Urges MBTA Against Proposed Fare Hikes, Suggests Expanded Reduced Fare Program

MALDEN – Just days after the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced plans to end late-night weekend service, Representative Steven Ultrino (D – Malden) sent a letter to the MBTA urging them to oppose proposals to increase fares by up to 10%, and to expand its reduced fares program to include families living in poverty.

“Thousands of Malden residents rely on the MBTA to get to work every day, and these drastic fare increases would create a significant obstacle to many working-class individuals who are trying to work, pay rent, and take care of their families,” said Representative Ultrino of his letter.  “Ultimately, the MBTA needs a funding increase.  Improvements are necessary and have to be made.  But that cost should not have such an outsized impact on working class families and commuters.”

 In the letter, Representative Ultrino spoke out against the fare hikes, which far exceed the 5% increases that riders have tolerated in past years.  Representative Ultrino also recommended that the MBTA’s Reduced Fare Program — a program that provides lower fares for the most vulnerable members of the community — be expanded to include families and individuals making 100%-200% of the Federal Poverty Line.

Representative Ultrino’s letter expressed great concern for the lower income residents of Malden and other surrounding municipalities, saying that a family of four living at 100% of the Federal Poverty Level relying on public transportation in Boston spends 24% of their annual income on transportation costs.

“As it stands, 7.9% of workers in my district who rely on the MBTA for transportation live at or below the poverty line,” wrote Representative Ultrino. “Any fare increase for such a family would lead to even more difficult choices between transportation, rent, food, and other necessities.”

The MBTA’s proposed fare increases are an effort to help remedy major structural budget deficits, though projected revenue gains would not significantly ameliorate the MBTA’s financial troubles.   Representative Ultrino recommended the MBTA partner with anti-poverty organizations like Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) to help determine who would be eligible for his suggested expansion of the Reduced Fares Program and also to raise awareness and participation amongst eligible commuters.

Letter to MBTA Against Fare Hikes

March 2, 2016

Chairman Joseph Aiello
MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board
10 Park Plaza, Suite 3910

Boston, MA 02116

Dear Chairman Aiello and Members of the Board,

I write on behalf of the residents of Malden to urge the Board to reject the two fare increase proposals under consideration, which far exceed the more predictable and bearable 5% increase that riders have endured over the last several years.  I also urge the Board to protect and expand the MBTA’s Reduced Fare Programs for the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth, especially if the Board adopts such drastic fare increases.

The MBTA is considering these proposed increases to help remedy major structural budget deficits, but the projected revenue gains from either of these fare proposals does not significantly ameliorate the MBTA’s financial woes.  What is significant about these proposals, however, is the impact they would have on MBTA’s riders, and on working-class individuals and their families throughout the Greater Boston area.

As it stands, 7.9% of workers in my district who rely on the MBTA for transportation live at or below the poverty line, according to an analysis of the 2010-2014 American Community Survey.  The suggested increases in fares would have a drastic impact on these working class families in Malden and in other communities in the Greater Boston area.  Households in Boston average 445 public transportation trips annually, resulting in a total cost of $592, according to the Housing and Transit Index.  This $592—for a family of four living at 100% of the Federal Poverty Level—represents 24% of the household’s annual income.  Any fare increase for such a family would lead to even more difficult choices between transportation, rent, food, and other necessities.

The MBTA already has a system in place for assisting middle and high school students, senior citizens, and those with disabilities to afford transportation.  I recommend expanding this program to families and individuals making 100%-200% of the Federal Poverty Line, similarly to how other public transportation authorities operate across the country.  As the majority of lower-income riders rely on rapid transit and the bus, this program would be most effective by providing fare relief for rapid transit and bus riders.  I also recommend that the MBTA partner with anti-poverty organizations like Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) to determine who would be eligible for the expanded Reduced Fares Program and to raise awareness and participation amongst eligible commuters. 

I urge you to reject any fare increase proposal above 5%, and to adopt the proposed expansion to the MBTA’s Reduced Fares Program to help alleviate the disproportionate burden felt by individuals and families in poverty that rely on the MBTA to get to work.

Sincerely,

Steven R. Ultrino, Ed.D.
State Representative
33rd Middlesex District

Ultrino, House Vote for Bill Protecting Minors from Dangers of Indoor Tanning

BOSTON – State Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass legislation that prohibits individuals under the age of 18 from using a tanning bed. Tanning beds are classified in the most dangerous group of cancer-causing agents by the World Health Organization, and this change reflects the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommendations regarding tanning devices.

“We all know that melanoma, which is becoming increasingly prevalent, takes loved ones from us too often and too soon,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “As public officials we have a responsibility to protect minors, particularly when it comes to their health. I believe this law will help save lives and I thank Representatives Sanchez, Hogan and Decker for their hard work on this issue.”

“This bill is a logical step to help prevent cancer in children and to keep them safe and healthy,” said Representative Ultrino.  “I am proud to vote for this bill and I applaud those who helped write and advocate for this bill.”

While the bill only came before the full House for passage last week, it has been debated in both the Public Health Committee and Health Care Financing Committee over the past several months.  Representative Ultrino, who is a member of both committees, voted to pass the bill through each committee and had been following its progress closely.

“The research is clear – tanning devices cause cancer. By supporting this bill to protect our kids from the UV radiation emitted by these devices, Massachusetts lawmakers are working to prevent future skin cancer diagnoses and save lives,” said Marc Hymovitz, Massachusetts director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.  “We applaud members of the House and Senate for voting overwhelming in favor of this legislation.”

“Research overwhelmingly shows that indoor tanning significantly increases the risk of skin cancer,” said Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This legislation is an overdue move to limit our children’s exposure to a known carcinogenic product.”

The bill also requires that tanning device operators be over the age of 18, but does not change the age permissible for other employment at tanning salons.

The bill now goes to the Governor’s desk.

Ultrino, House Vote to Pass Bill Addressing Health Disparities

BOSTON – State Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) voted in support of a bill to create a state Office of Health Equity which passed in the House this past Wednesday. The office will work to address long-standing differences in health outcomes between the general public, and racial and low-income people.

Representative Ultrino touted the bill’s expected impact on Malden, which has a high population of low-income residents, as well as vibrant and diverse minority communities.

“Health care has always been an important issue for me, and for the residents of Malden,” said Representative Ultrino. “This bill will help bridge the gaps in our current system and ensure that your income and race do not hurt your ability to be in good health.”

The bill addresses current inequalities in health care that minorities and people of a lower income face.  The Office of Health Equity will be in charge of research that will improve technologies available to lower income areas, while consulting current programs, data, and services within the Massachusetts health care system to determine where improvement can be made.  Reducing barriers to care and increasing the involvement of minority health care officials and students are also key goals of the bill.

“Research shows that cultural differences and language barriers can hinder quality and access to health care, even when health insurance is the same,” said Representative Ultrino.  “This is unacceptable, and I am proud to have voted for this bill in the Health Care Financing Committee and again on the House floor this week.”

More than 60 health care researchers and providers voiced their support for the bill in a letter to the House on Tuesday.  “…[R]esidents of color still face (sic) disproportionately higher rates of chronic disease and mortality than do residents of [Massachusetts] as a whole…Research shows that while access to medical care is important, social and environmental factors are even more critical in determining a person’s health,” the Disparities Action Network wrote.

The Office of Health Equity was created in 2009, but has never had the dedicated funding or staffing needed to make a change.  The bill (H 3969), passed on a 154-3 vote, allots the necessary funding to make the office permanent.   

The bill now heads to the Senate, where Malden’s state senator, Jason Lewis (D – Winchester) is the lead sponsor.

Malden Firefighters Honored by Massachusetts House of Representatives

BOSTON – Three Malden firefighters were honored at the State House on Wednesday after pulling a Saugus firefighter from a massive three alarm fire earlier this month.

Speaker Robert DeLeo welcomed Lieutenant John Hall and Firefighters Don Kelsey and Gregory Jean to the State House. He was joined by Malden’s House delegation, Representatives Paul Donato, Steve Ultrino, Paul Brodeur, and by Representative Donald Wong of Saugus.

“Lieutenant Hall and Firefighters Kelsey and Jean exemplify the ideals of public service and commitment to community,” said Speaker DeLeo. “Every day, I am awed by the courage of Massachusetts’ firefighters and grateful for the sacrifices that they and their families make. I would like to wholeheartedly thank these three heroes for their bravery and selflessness.”

The Malden delegation presented each firefighter with an official House of Representatives citation recognizing them for their heroism in saving the life of another firefighter.

“These are our local heroes: selfless, inspiring to all, and truly a great example of Malden’s Firefighters,” said Representative Paul Donato.

“These brave men represent the very best of Malden,” said Representative Steve Ultrino. “I’m grateful every day for the hard work and dedication of our firefighters, who put themselves at risk to protect the community and save lives.”

“I am pleased that we have the opportunity to congratulate these heroes. Their altruism and bravery are examples that should inspire everyone. We are lucky that Malden has such dedicated firefighters keeping us safe day in and day out,” State Representative Paul Brodeur said.

“I would like to thank the Malden brotherhood of firefighters for saving the life of a Saugus firefighter,” said Representative Donald Wong. “Firefighters are always risking their lives to save lives.”

House Passes Substance Addiction Legislation to Enhance Continuum of Care and Prevention Efforts

BOSTON – Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass substance addiction legislation that creates a new standard to evaluate and treat patients who present in emergency rooms with an apparent overdose. This new best practice, which will be covered by insurance, is designed to ensure the proper assessment and discharge of patients who seek voluntary treatment. 

“For too many Malden families, this crisis is personal,” said Representative Ultrino. “This legislation addresses the opioid epidemic with urgency, compassion, and care.”

“We are in the midst of a public health crisis that is draining vitality from our hometowns, extinguishing lives and stealing souls,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop).  “The House has crafted legislation and budgets that complement each other and set a foundation for continual improvement. I’m proud of that strategy, especially our emphasis on consensus-building. I wholeheartedly thank my colleagues and Chairs Malia, Dempsey and Sánchez for their creative, unassuming and compassionate commitment to paving a path for the recovery of thousands of our loved ones, and in fact, a path for our wounded Commonwealth.”

The bill limits first-time opiate prescriptions to seven days for adults and all opiate prescriptions for minors to seven days, with with exceptions for chronic pain management, cancer, and palliative care. Additionally, practitioners must check the prescription monitoring program (PMP) each time they prescribe any opiate and correspondingly note that in the patient’s medical records.

In an effort to build upon current prevention efforts, the legislation updates current law requiring all public schools to have a policy regarding substance abuse education by requiring schools to report their plans to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). DESE will then consult with the Department of Public Health (DPH) to provide recommendations that will assist schools and ensure they are providing effective and up-to-date education. Additional education materials will be provided to all student-athletes. 

From its discussions with numerous stakeholders and recovery groups, the House recognizes the importance of empowering individuals as they grapple with addiction. As a result, this bill establishes a non-opiate directive form, allowing patients to include a notation in their records that they shall not be offered opiates. It also requires that patients being discharged from substance addiction programs receive information on all FDA-approved medication-assisted therapies.

Over the past few years, the House’s efforts related to substance addiction have focused on behavioral health and the prevalence of co-occurring disorders. This legislation requires the Health Policy Commission to conduct a study on access to dual-diagnosis treatment in the Commonwealth for children, adolescents and adults. To help ensure parity between behavioral and physical health care, the legislation also requires insurance companies to report annually on their denied claims.

This bill also:
·         Requires that contact information for all insurers be posted on the bed-finder tool website and updates the law to ensure the site is available 24 hours a day;
·         Ends the practice of sending women who are civilly committed for alcohol or substance-use disorders to MCI-Framingham;
·         Ensures civil-liability protection for individuals who administer Narcan;
·         Updates the training guidelines for all practitioners who prescribe controlled substances;
·         Establishes the Massachusetts Council on Substance Use Disorder Prevention and Treatment, which will help the Commonwealth understand and confront addiction in a unified way.

This legislation follows a 65.2% increase in substance addiction funding since FY12 and the landmark substance addiction law passed in 2014 which, for the first time, mandated detox and stabilization coverage. The two bills are intended to complement each other and reflect a consensus-driven approach.

Malden Awarded $435,900 in Grant Funding to Combat Substance Abuse

BOSTON – Malden’s state legislative delegation, including Senator Jason Lewis and Representatives Paul Donato, Paul Brodeur, and Steve Ultrino, is pleased to announce that the City of Malden has been awarded over $400,000 in state grant funding through the Department of Public Health to combat substance abuse.

Malden will receive $85,000 per year for five years, totaling $425,000, under the Strategic Prevention Framework Partnership for Success 2015 (SPF-PFS) programs for prescription drug misuse prevention activities.  Funding for the SPF-PFS program is provided by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  The goal of the program is to implement evidence-based prevention programs, policies, and practices to reduce prescription drug misuse among persons aged 12 to 25 years old in high-need communities.

Malden first responders will also receive $10,900 from the Department of Public Health to facilitate the purchasing, carrying, and administering of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.

“Combating substance abuse and addiction continues to be one of my highest priorities as a legislator,” said Senator Jason Lewis.  “With opioid abuse in particular continuing to be a scourge in our communities, I’m very pleased that Malden will have access to this important grant funding to strengthen public health and public safety.”

“As we all know, the opioid epidemic continues to be a major concern in every city and town in the Commonwealth,” said Representative Paul J. Donato.  “This grant will provide resources for Malden to combat substance abuse.”

“We now know that many sufferers of opioid abuse begin with a prescription painkiller addiction and then later transition to less expensive and more dangerous substances,” Representative Paul Brodeur said.  “I am pleased that this funding will enable us to tackle this dynamic head-on by utilizing evidence-based approaches to provide preventative education, meaningful interventions, and pathways to recovery for our Malden community.”

“This funding is just one piece of our efforts to address the opioid epidemic and substance abuse issues,” said Representative Steve Ultrino. “With these grants, Malden will be better equipped to combat this major public health issue.”