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.”

Representative Ultrino Urges Constituents to Apply for Financial Aid to Help Pay for College

MALDEN – Paying for college is daunting, but Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) wants students and their families to know that help locating and applying for financial aid is available with free assistance from American Student Assistance®, the local nonprofit that empowers students and families to make better decisions about financing higher education and repaying student loans.

Last year, Massachusetts students secured more than $1 billion in grants and low-interest loans from federal and state governments, as well as millions of dollars in scholarships from colleges and universities. Students and their families need to know these resources exist and may need assistance navigating the complex process.  ASA® can help applicants through this process with free guidance.

“Higher education can help millions of students join the middle class, but an affordable college education is out of reach for too many Malden families,” said Representative Ultrino, who was the first in his family to go to college. “By completing a FAFSA application early in the year, students will have a better shot at low-interest loans, Pell Grants, and other forms of state and federal aid.”

Federal and state governments, along with colleges and universities, are the major sources of financial aid.  Students begin the process of applying for both federal and state aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  This document is available online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.  Many private colleges and universities also require a second form, the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®, which is available at www.collegeboard.org.

To receive free guidance on identifying sources of financial aid and completing applications, students and families throughout Massachusetts may call ASA’s® toll-free information hotline at 1-877-332-4348 or visit one of ASA’s College Planning Centers in Boston and Brockton, Mass.  For hours of operation, visit www.asa.org/plan. ASA’s hotline is made available through a partnership among the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and ASA.

“Time is of the essence, and students planning to attend college next fall should begin the financial aid application process now,” said Kristi Pierce, ASA’s managing director of college planning services.  “Students should apply early – as soon after January 1st as possible - and investigate all possible sources of aid.”

ASA College Planning Centers provide one-on-one information and advice on applying for financial aid and other concerns related to college planning.  All ASA College Planning Center services are free. For guidance or for information on the Center closest to you, please call 1-877-ED-AID-4U (1-877-332-4348) or visit www.asa.org/plan.

Ultrino Receives Greater Boston Labor Council Leadership Award

BOSTON – State Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) was honored last month for his advocacy on the City Council and in the Legislature for working individuals and their families. The Greater Boston Labor Council recognized Representative Ultrino for his efforts with their annual Leadership Award.

“No one deserves to work full time and still live in poverty,” said Representative Ultrino during the award ceremony. “I’m proud to continue to fight for workers’ rights, to fight for working families, and to fight the problem of income inequality in our country.”

“Steve Ultrino is a fierce advocate for working families, and we were proud to honor him,” said Rich Rogers, the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Greater Boston Labor Council. The event was held on November 20th in Stoneham.

The recognition from the Greater Boston Labor Council comes at an important time. A key legislative committee reported favorably on one of Representative Ultrino’s priority bills, which would raise the minimum wage to $15 for big box retail and fast food restaurant employees. The bill has now moved on to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

The Greater Boston Labor Council is a federation of 161 unions, and serves as the regional arm of the AFL-CIO. Its work encompasses twenty-four communities in Greater Boston, including Malden.

Ultrino Hosts Senior Forum with Legislators

Event Brought Service Providers, Legislative Leaders, and Seniors Together

From left: Representatives Paul Brodeur, Denise Garlick, and Steve Ultrino.

From left: Representatives Paul Brodeur, Denise Garlick, and Steve Ultrino.

MALDEN – State Representative Steve Ultrino (D—Malden) hosted Malden seniors at a well-attended community forum at the Malden Senior Center on Monday, along with House Elder Affairs Committee Chairwoman Representative Denise Garlick (D—Needham) and Representative PaulBrodeur (D—Melrose).

Representative Ultrino, who sits on the Elder Affairs Committee and also on the board of directors for the Monsignor Neagle Housing Association, spoke about the need for better resources for seniors in housing, health care, and other areas.

From left: Representatives Steve Ultrino, Denise Garlick, and Paul Brodeur.

From left: Representatives Steve Ultrino, Denise Garlick, and Paul Brodeur.

“We’ve done a lot of great work in Malden, but there’s so much more to do,” said Representative Ultrino. “It’s important for us to hear from seniors about their concerns, and that’s what this forum is about. I’m grateful to the many organizations and citizens who are joining with us in the legislature to fight for more services. ”

Chairwoman Garlick, who chairs the House Elder Affairs Committee, presented key information on these issues and discussed resources that are available to seniors in need. Other topics discussed include predatory lending practices against seniors, helping support caregivers, and unreasonable limits on assets and income for program eligibility.

The legislators fielded questions from those in attendance and invited seniors to complete an anonymous survey about issues they are facing relating to elder affairs.

Representative Ultrino stressed the importance of community partnerships in providing resources to Malden seniors. Several service providers and senior advocacy groups were represented, including AARP of Massachusetts, Boston Medical Center, Mystic Valley Elder Services, and ABCD, which recently began operating the Fuel Assistance (LIHEAP) program in Malden.

Representative Ultrino co-sponsored a number of important bills to help Malden seniors this legislative session, including An Act relative to assisting elders and people with wisabilities in the Commonwealth, An Act to create increased eligibility for home care services for the elderly, and The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act.

Ultrino, House Vote to Pass Veterans Legislation

“Advocating for veterans is a year-round effort,” says Ultrino.

Representative Ultrino meets with Corporal Sam Bernstein, 90, at a ceremony in February recognizing veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima. “Working to help veterans is a year-round effort,” says Ultrino.

Representative Ultrino meets with Corporal Sam Bernstein, 90, at a ceremony in February recognizing veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima. “Working to help veterans is a year-round effort,” says Ultrino.

BOSTON  – State Representative Steve Ultrino joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives last Wednesday in passing comprehensive legislation to improve the lives of American veterans. The passing of this legislation comes a week before the celebration of Veterans Day.

Representative Ultrino has been a steadfast and proactive advocate for veterans since being sworn in earlier this year. He has co-sponsored several bills affecting veterans, including H.2461 which would create a tax exemption for paraplegic veterans, and H. 3057, which would help veterans access health care. Representative Ultrino also submitted testimony last month in support of H.3126, An Act relative to the cost of veteran higher education.

“Veterans Day is an opportunity for us to recognize the men and women who have done so much for our country,” said Representative Ultrino. “But working to help veterans is a year-round effort. I’ve been advocating for veterans legislation since I was sworn in last January, and I look forward to continuing to do so.”

During last week’s session, Representative Ultrino and his colleagues approved a batch of proposals to protect veterans grave markers from theft and defacement and to criminalize falsely claiming veteran status for personal benefit.

One of the bills sets punishments for “stolen valor” crimes, such as pretending to be a veteran, active service member or military honor recipient for financial gain. A separate bill that sets a fine of $5,000 for the illegal sale, receipt, retention or disposal of veterans grave markers was also approved. These markers are often made of bronze and have thus been the targets of scrap metal scavengers. The House passed a third bill which strengthens a law criminalizing the desecration of gravestones.

Statement from Representative Ultrino, Senator Wolf, Mass. AFL-CIO President Tolman, and Fight for $15

BOSTON – Following the favorable report of An Act to establish a living wage for employees of big box retail stores and fast food chains, legislators, workers, and supporters of the bill rallied at the State House in support of the Fight for $15 movement.

“This piece of legislation and this entire movement is about working class individuals and their families,” said Representative Steve Ultrino (D-Malden), the lead sponsor of the bill in the House. “I’m thrilled that the committee has supported our bill, and I’m looking forward to this legislation becoming law.”

"When committed workers and activists rally for a $15 an hour minimum wage, filling the State House steps with enthusiasm, it's my honor to join them,” said Senator Dan Wolf (D-Harwich). “And I had great news to share:  Today the committee I co-chair- the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development- endorsed my bill to guarantee $15 an hour for people working in big box stores and fast food restaurants.  Another great step forward!”

“Given the income inequality in America and Massachusetts, this legislation is a step in the right direction but we have a staircase still to climb. We look forward to putting all our efforts towards its passage,” said Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven A. Tolman.

“Fifteen dollars an hour would help lift up our communities by strengthening our families that are barely hanging on right now,” said Theresa Pennington, a single mother and a fast food worker at Dunkin Donuts where she makes $9 an hour. “Today’s announcement shows the growing momentum behind Fight for $15, and stands as one more reminder that when workers unite, we win.”

State Representative Steve Ultrino To Host Community Conversation with Seniors

Committee on Elder Affairs Chair Garlick to Attend

MALDEN – Representative Steve Ultrino wishes to invite all seniors, their loved ones and caregivers to a Community Conversation with the Chair of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Elder Affairs, Representative Denise C. Garlick.

They will share information on the resources that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts currently uses to support our seniors. Most importantly, Representative Ultrino and Chair Garlick are looking forward to listening to the issues, needs and concerns of the seniors of the community in order to plan for the future.

The Community Conversation with Seniors will be held:

November 23, 2015
10:30 AM
Malden Senior Center
7 Washington St

Malden MA 02148

Light refreshments will be served.

Please do not hesitate to contact Alex Pratt in the Office of Representative Steve Ultrino at Alexander.Pratt@mahouse.gov or 617-722-2460 with any questions or concerns.

#         #         #