Begining of 2017-18 Legislative Session is Upon Us

By Leominster Champion | on January 19, 2017
A column by state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan

All Massachusetts legislators have been sworn in, and a new legislative session is upon us. January is an exciting time to start fresh, and I am confident that my colleagues and I will tackle this upcoming session with energy. There are so many critically important issues on the line that prioritizing is certainly a challenge. However, each legislator does have their own set of priorities, and I would like to outline a few of mine.

Last legislative session, I was the chair for the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee, Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee, and the Special Senate Committee on Opioids. Due to my leadership on these committees, my legislative priorities were aligned with these issues.

This coming session, I have similar aspirations. I hope to address deficiencies in the mental health system, improve suicide prevention programs, tackle the legalization of marijuana while also continuing to work on substance abuse legislation, and make improvements within the Department of Children and Families.

Mental health is always on my agenda, but this session I would like to focus on rising mental illness among our youth. There have been increasing diagnoses of mental illness among children, and this is creating a major problem for schools, hospitals, and families. I want to look at the big picture to analyze where we can have more support and what services need to be increased. Coinciding with legislation for mental health is suicide prevention. This has always been a topic near and dear to my heart, and I want to evaluate what more we can do to eliminate suicide. There are some wonderful organizations in North Central Massachusetts working hard to lower the number of suicides that occur in our district. I would love for the Legislature to be able to echo and support their efforts.

Another major topic my colleagues and I will be tackling is marijuana legalization. Massachusetts residents voted to legalize marijuana, so my colleagues and I will be working to ensure proper policies will be implemented. Legislators want to be certain that this takes place in the most responsible way possible. There are many moving parts to legalizing marijuana, and establishing firm regulations is crucial. Given that this is a first for the Commonwealth, we will all be moving as cautious as possible.

In recent sessions, we have been lucky enough to pass two bills related to treatment for substance abuse in an effort to combat the epidemic plaguing the Commonwealth. The first was passed in 2014 to provide people with greater access to treatment by mandating insurance companies cover at least 14 days of treatment. In 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker signed Treatment, Prevention, and Education, which covers a wide array of services and prevention efforts that we hope will reduce substance addiction. We hope to keep the ball moving forward and look at post-treatment issues such as access to housing and jobs.

Finally, we will be working to improve the Department of Children and Families by providing the department with the resources necessary to do their jobs. We are looking forward to introducing legislation to create positive developments and team up with the department to ensure success with keeping families in the Commonwealth safe and healthy.

Rare Disease Day Stops Illnesses from Going Unnoticed

A column by state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan

By Leominster Champion | on February 16, 2017

Feb. 28 is Rare Disease Day in the United States and across the globe. In the U.S., a “rare disease” is one that affects fewer than 200,000 Americans at any given time. It is estimated that 50 percent of rare diseases are identified in children. Due to a lack of education and awareness on rare diseases, most go misdiagnosed for long periods of time, leading to continued suffering, worry, panic, and pain. In addition, when a diagnosis for a rare disease is given, there is typically no cure. There is also little push to fund treatment, experimentation, and/or research into the disease within the medical community because of the low number of individuals who are diagnosed.

It is for these reasons that Rare Disease Day is so critical. It sheds light on illnesses that otherwise go unnoticed. Having a dedicated day for spreading awareness on rare diseases allows the public and policymakers an opportunity to become educated on rare diseases, and to learn about the work that needs to be done for those who are afflicted. This is how the implementation of new and appropriate public health policy is created.

Legislators should meet the people who have been diagnosed with a rare disease, and hear their personal stories to learn about the challenges they regularly face. By understanding the issue, proper policy can be created. This is a great example of why advocacy, on any subject, is critical. Rare Disease Day is the perfect advocacy opportunity for legislators to see what work needs to be done to ensure that proper research is completed in the medical field for these diseases. Even though a disease is rare, it does not mean those suffering should be overlooked.

For people who have rare diseases, research is the single most important factor that is standing between suffering or being able to have some quality of life. When Feb. 28 comes around this year, consider learning about some of the rare diseases that are affecting your neighbors. Education, awareness, and advocacy are what brings attention to issues.

I would like to encourage all those reading this to help people struggling with rare diseases by spreading the word and advocating on Feb. 28. For more information and resources, visit www.rarediseaseday.org.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Senator Jennifer Flanagan, Representative Kimberly Ferguson named to special panel on behavioral health

Sentinel & Enterprise

UPDATED:   02/24/2017 04:56:32 PM EST

BOSTON - Sen. Jennifer Flanagan of Leominster and Rep. Kimberly Ferguson of Holden on Friday announced their appointments to serve on the Special Commission on Behavioral Health Promotion and Upstream Prevention.

Created as part of the fiscal 2017 state budget, the commission is charged with investigating evidence-based practices, programs and systems to prevent behavioral health disorders and promote behavioral health across the state.

In addition to developing recommendations for improving behavioral health in Massachusetts through early detection and intervention, the commission will also focus on increasing collaboration at the state and local levels between community coalitions and public health, mental health, health care, education, social services and public safety organizations.

"I want to thank Senate President Rosenberg for having the confidence in me to serve on this special commission," Flanagan, a Democrat, said in a statement. "The importance of prevention is critical when trying to combat violence and promote overall health."

Ferguson a Republican, said she is eager to work with Flanagan on the issue.

"Given my background in special education and speech/language pathology, I am thrilled to serve on this commission and I would like to thank House Minority Leader Bradley Jones for giving me the opportunity to do so," Ferguson, a Republican, said in the statement. "I feel that now more than ever it is critical to focus on behavioral health and I am looking forward to collaborating with Senator Flanagan on this important issue."

The commission will hold a minimum of three public hearings, and is required to issue a report within 24 months of its first meeting. The commission also has the option of making a draft report available for public comment before filing its final version.

Flanagan was co-chair of a similar special legislative panel that focused on the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts, work that led to legislation focused on prevention and treatment of opioid addiction.



Read more: http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/breakingnews/ci_30817940/sen-jennifer-flanagan-rep-kimberly-ferguson-named-special#ixzz4aZ4ERkd3

Opening a tool kit for healthy lives

Flanagan, Benson help unveil guide for work on psychological, substance-abuse issues

By Peter Jasinski, pjasinski@sentinelandenterprise.com

Updated:   01/19/2017 09:01:10 AM EST

 

State Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster, helps announce the formation of a guide for policymakers working to tackle mental-health and substance-abuse issues across the country. State Rep. Jennifer Benson, D-Lunenburg, looks on at right. COURTESY PHOTO

Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

BOSTON -- Members of the national women legislators organization Women in Government, including state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan and state Rep. Jennifer Benson, announced Tuesday the formation of a guide for policymakers trying to tackle mental-health and substance-abuse issues across the country.

"I am extremely excited to be able to release the findings of this tool kit that my colleagues and I have been working on for quite some time," Flanagan said. "This tool kit will provide a best resources guide for legislators on a national scale who are looking to develop new policies for mental health an substance abuse disorders."

Flanagan and Benson were also joined by state Reps. Carole Fiola of Fall River, Hannah Kane of Shrewsbury and Claire Cronin of Easton for the announcement.

Women in Government developed their National Task Force on Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders in 2016 after hearing from members about the growing epidemics in their respective states. The task force met through the year in order to develop state policy responses, exchange ideas, and create effective partnerships.

Through their discussions, the task force identified several policy areas that affect mental health and substance abuse disorders, including the ability to provide access to coordinated, quality care, adequate professional training, housing instability for people wit mental health and substance abuse issues, and effectively collecting and utilizing data relevant to people suffering from these issues.

Advertisement

Other policy areas included making sure adequate care is available at all stages of recovery, reforming sentencing guidelines and prison programming for those with mental health and substance abuse issues, and fostering greater awareness in educational settings and in the community at large.

According to a statement released by Flanagan's office, Women in Government's guidelines will provide a best resources guide to assist legislators in developing policies to help constituents suffering from mental illness or substance abuse disorders.

Women in Government is a national, non-profit, non-partisan organization of women state legislators that provides leadership opportunities, networking, expert forums, and educational resources on policy issues.


 

Senator Flanagan Announces

78th Citizens' Legislative Seminar in March

An invitation to learn about the legislative process

 

BOSTON – Senator Flanagan announced today that they are seeking nominees to participate in the 78th Citizens' Legislative Seminar (CLS) to be held March 21 and March 22 at the State House in Boston.  CLS is a semi-annual educational seminar geared towards adults of all ages interested in learning more about state government and the legislative process. 

 

“The Citizens’ Legislative Seminar is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the legislative process and enhance your civic engagement," said Senator Flanagan. " I would encourage all of my constituents to participate in this informative program."

 

Established in 1976 through a collaborative effort of the Massachusetts Senate and the University of Massachusetts, the two-day seminar features engaging presentations by Senators and staff on aspects of the day-to-day experience of legislators in the Commonwealth. Topics will include the history and process of the Legislature, the parliamentary role of the Clerk of the Senate and the future of the Legislature. The Seminar will walk participants through the legislative process including how bills are introduced, debated, and passed.

 

“The Citizens’ Legislative Seminar is part of the Massachusetts Senate’s ongoing effort to increase civic engagement and open up the democratic process. It’s the perfect chance to come and gain an insider’s perspective from elected officials and staff on how the legislature works,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “This is an excellent learning experience and I encourage those interested to contact their senator.”

 

The CLS culminates with a simulated legislative hearing and Senate session where participants are invited to use what they have learned and participate as “Senators” in the Senate Chamber in order to have a first-hand experience of the legislative process.  

 

Interested residents in the Worcester and Middlesex District are invited to contact Annie Reiser by Friday January 20th at anita.reiser@masenate.gov in order to be nominated by Senator Flanagan. Seats are limited and nominations are taken on a first come, first serve basis.

Senator Flanagan to Co-Chair the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators for the 2017-2018 Legislative Session

 

BOSTON- Senator Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster) announced today that she will serve as co-chair, along with Representative Colleen Gary (D-Dracut), of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators for the 2017-2018 legislative session. 

 

The caucus aims to be a resource for all Massachusetts women by organizing programs across the Commonwealth that can assist with everything from health care to business ventures.  In addition,  the caucus works to support legislation that specifically addresses women's issues.  For example, An Act to Establish Pay Equity was a successful bill for the Women's Caucus signed into law this year by Governor Baker.

 

"I am honored to have the opportunity this legislative session to co-chair the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators and to have the chance to focus on the issues I really feel are important," said Senator Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster).  "My goal is to work along with my colleagues to create an agenda that will positively affect all women in the Commonwealth."

 

The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators was established in 1975 with a mission to enhance the economic status and equality of women and to encourage and support women in all levels of government.

 

Bolton, Lancaster, and Sterling to Receive META Grants

Senator Flanagan Announces Bolton, Lancaster, and Sterling to Receive Municipal Energy Technical Assistance (META) Grants

September 12, 2016- Senator Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster) announced today that the towns of Bolton, Lancaster, and Sterling will be recipients of a Municipal Energy Technical Assistance Grant (META) by the Green Communities Division of the Department of Energy Resources (DOER). The following amounts are to be awarded: Bolton - $6,750, Lancaster -$5,000, and Sterling-$12,500.

META grants are open to all cities, towns, and regional planning authorities. They will fund the services of expert consultants and contractors to assist with a diverse array of local energy projects. Projects and studies receiving funding will support the performance of solar photovoltaic site evaluation, heating system replacements, ASHRAE Level II audits, technical analysis of energy use at drinking water and wastewater facilities and technical assistance with Green Community reporting and application.

Senator Flanagan Announces 77th Citizens' Legislative Seminar in October invitation to learn about the legislative process

BOSTON – Senator Flanagan announced today that they are seeking nominees to participate in the 77th Citizens' Legislative Seminar (CLS) to be held October 17-18 at the State House in Boston. CLS is a semi-annual educational seminar geared towards adults of all ages interested in learning more about state government and the legislative process.

Read More