Mental Health Effort that Began in High School Pays Dividends

By Colin A. Young



STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 20, 2017.....Three women from north central Massachusetts were on hand Thursday to watch as the Senate passed a bill they wrote to give high schools the option of adding mental health education to their health courses.

The Senate's approval of the bill marked a milestone for the college-aged women, who began their quest to add a mental health component to health education while attending Leominster High School.

The bill (S 2112), filed by Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, would expressly state that public high schools may supplement their physical health education with mental health education in areas including mental illness, teenage brain development, stress management, physical health, violence prevention, ecological and community health and overcoming mental illness stigma.

Though the bill is only a few lines long, the women spearheading the effort -- Kyrah Altman, Lauren Wilkins and Alex Buckman -- also developed more than 900 pages of curriculum for a course to teach physical and mental health to high schoolers in one course.

"It has been designed to meet all of the Massachusetts health education standards and the national health education standards," said Altman, who now serves as president of Let's Empower, Advocate and Do (LEAD), the nonprofit that grew out of their advocacy. "So our vision is for a school to literally incorporate our curriculum as our health class because it teaches both physical and mental health equally and it meets all the standards."

Flanagan described the curriculum as a "health education supplement that would incorporate all the information from the health information class while expanding on the mental health topics that affect students." She added that adopting this curriculum would not require a school to hire any new teachers or staff, or spend additional money.

The women's advocacy began when they were sophomores at Leominster High School when in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre they formed a group to try to take on issues like gun control, substance use, domestic violence and poverty.

By senior year, the group came to a realization that led them to focus their efforts on mental health and begin working on a mental health education curriculum.

"We realized that every single social issue that we tried attacking in the past, we could see this common theme, this common thread of untreated mental illness was at the foundation of everything we were doing," Altman said.

She added, "Then we said, if mental illness is a really big problem especially for our age group and we're seeing it play out in the community as people become adults, why aren't we learning about this in health class?"

The women soon learned the Massachusetts health education framework had not been updated since 1999 and began to use the existing framework as a starting point for a new framework.

"We wanted to make it so that it met all of the state frameworks but also incorporated mental health topics and stressed the importance of physical health and mental health together and how they are impacting one another," Wilkins said. "So it covers things like nutrition but also eating disorders and body image problems. And it also covers things like stress management, which is super important for high school students and a lot of people don't know how to tackle it and how to manage their time well."

The curriculum was used at Leominster High School last school year and Wilkins said the students who took the elective course enjoyed it a lot.

"It showed increases in care-seeking behaviors in students, decreases in stigma around these topics and it's running again next year," she said.

In addition to Leominster, LEAD is in talks with a handful of other central Massachusetts school systems about adopting their curriculum.

After the Senate passed the bill on a voice vote Thursday, the women told the News Service they now plan to get in touch with House members to convince them to advance their bill so it can become law.

After Thursday's vote, the women reflected on the work that led them to this point and the process that began long before they graduated high school and began their own higher education.

Buckman said, "Since then it's just kind of been a rollercoaster ride of waiting and hoping."

June is National Alzheimer's Month

June is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight this disease due to its growing prevalence, and share some information I have recently learned through the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects an estimated 5.1 million Americans. It is diagnosed mostly among our aging population. However, it is also possible for younger adults to have the disease, and about 500,000 people experience early onset symptoms.

There are some significant warning signs of this disease to look out for. For example, some of the major symptoms are forgetfulness such as confusion about time or place, struggling to complete daily activities such as getting dressed, trouble finding words, mood swings, and memory loss of recent information.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in Massachusetts, and the CDC tells us that this disease will grow at a rate of 25 percent by 2025. This disease is also one of the most expensive in America, costing the U.S. $259 billion in 2017. In fact, a person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will cost Medicaid 23 times more than an average patient. These numbers are shocking. As a legislator, I am concerned for the individuals and families who are suffering and the strain this will have on public funding.

There are several pieces of legislation on the table in Massachusetts that address the prevention and education of this disease. These bills focus on training providers who work with populations most susceptible to Alzheimer’s. Ensuring a clear diagnosis is critical, as it prevents exacerbation of symptoms. Without it, patients run the risk of treatment non-compliance with other health issues such as heart disease and diabetes by not being able to follow proper medication and diet protocol. Sadly, statistics say that only 45 percent of people with Alzheimer’s report being given a proper diagnosis.

To educate yourself on the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, please visit, or learn how you may keep your brain healthy as you age at Being proactive and knowing the signs can help with an early diagnosis.

Senate Passes FY18 Budget

Senator Flanagan Announces Passing of Fiscal Year 2018 Budget

BOSTON– The Senate voted today on a $40.8 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2018, investing in key areas related to local aid, education, health and human services, housing and workforce development. The budget makes targeted investments, while limiting the use of one-time revenue sources and protecting the state’s Stabilization Fund.

"This budget provides a good balance of investments in human services, workforce development, education, health, and economy," said Senator Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster). "I am also proud to announce the successful adoption of several amendments specifically for the Worcester and Middlesex District."

For Senator Flanagan’s district, the following amendments for local items were approved by the Senate:

  • SPED Rate Increase allows for a modest 1.51% cost inflation factor rate increase on tuition rates.  Allowing C766 schools to increase tuition rates will provide private special education schools with the ability to make critical program reconstruction adjustments.

  • Mount Wachusett Community College - Brewer Center for Civic Learning & Community Engagement will receive an increase of $100,000 in funding for the Senator Stephen M. Brewer Center for Civic Learning & Community Engagement at Mount Wachusett Community College. 

  • Mount Wachusett Community College - Automotive Technology Center will receive an increase of $50,000 in funding.  This amendment allows MWCC to relocate their auto tech program to the Fitchburg area.  Preparing students for this field is important, in addition to student demand, because it is estimated that 28 % of auto tech workers are nearing retirement age.

  • Leominster Yes We Care / Torch Program will see an increase of $20,000 in funding. This amendment will assist the Yes We Care/Torch Training program with the costs of food, supplies, purchasing materials and administrative costs related to the program, as well as for additional workshops throughout the year.

  • Alcoholic beverage manufacturer pouring licenses allows a company with a section 19 alcoholic beverage manufacturer’s license to, with local approval, sell their products for on-premises consumption. Under current law, a section 19 license allows for alcoholic beverage manufacturer, such as Wachusett Brewery, to conduct tastings or to sell bottled beer take home and consume.  This amendment would allow for Wachusett and other local businesses, who do not also have a license allowing them to pour and serve, such as the Farmer-Brewery license (19C), a Pub-brewery license (19D), or Tenant-brewer license (19G) to serve and sell their product on the premises, to sell a glass of beer to their patrons after a tasting

  • Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress will have an expansion of their continuum of life programs, including Parents’ First Call, Your Next Star workforce training campaign, and a variety of other important programs serving our 5,000 member families and individuals living with Down syndrome, the MDSC requested an increase of $75,000 in last year’s budget.  The majority of this funding allows the MDSC to provide up-to-date, objective and accurate information and supports to new and expectant parents after they receive a positive diagnosis of Down syndrome.  The state appropriation also supports MDSC educational programs that share best practices in education, health care, research and community supports throughout the lifespan of individuals with Down syndrome, so that they can lead active and meaningful lives in their community.  Your support for MA Down Syndrome Congress Amendment 303 will truly make a difference to 5,000 people with Down syndrome in MA.

  • SBIRT Implementation provides $200,000 for school districts to implement SBIRT screening as mandated by last year’s prevention and recovery legislation.  Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment. (SBIRT) is a proven and effective prevention tool that identifies risky alcohol or drug use through conversations and dialogue, not drug testing, between students and a school official, usually a school nurse, trained by the Department of Public Health.

  • Gardner Business Incubator requests an increase of $100,000 in funding.  This amendment will improve economic development in the greater Gardner area. The Greater Gardner Business Incubator Network, Inc. is a collaboration of dedicated individuals representing varied aspects of business.

  • Johnny Appleseed Trail Association requests an increase of 85,000 in funding.  The Johnny Appleseed Trail Association is a visitor information program created by The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce who has strong roots in community activities and specialties.

  • Fitchburg Public Safety Improvements requests an increase of $50,000 in funding for Fitchburg Public Safety Improvements. These additional resources will be allocated to improving Downtown Community Policing Initiatives. 

  • On Site Academy  will see an increase of $200,000 in funding. The On-Site Academy is a non-profit residential treatment and training center for critical incident stress management.  The program is for all law enforcement, fire service, EMS, or other human service personnel who are themselves temporarily overwhelmed by the stress of their jobs, what they have seen, and what they have been through.

  • Clinton Walnut Street Parking Lot Reconstruction will see an increase of $85,000 in funding.  This amendment would support downtown businesses by reconstructing a public parking lot located at 24 Walnut Street in Clinton, MA.

In line with the Senate’s Kids First framework to invest in our children, the budget directs funding to high quality education for everyone, from children at birth to adults making midlife career transitions.

  • $4.76B in Chapter 70 education funding, allowing for a minimum increase of $30 per pupil aid, 85% effort reduction and steps to implement the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations to more adequately fund school districts across the state.

  • $545.1M for community colleges and universities and $534.5M for the University of Massachusetts.

  • $293.7M to fully fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker for the 6th year in a row, reimbursing school districts for the high cost of educating students with disabilities.

  • $15.1M to expand access to high quality preschool for low income 4 year olds.

  • $10M to boost salaries for early educators.

  • $7.5M for the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative and $7M for youth anti-violence Shannon Grants.

  • $3.7M for after-school and out-of-school programs to support students who need more time and specialized attention.

The budget takes steps to contain health care costs and invests in health and human services to ensure access to high quality, affordable health care and to support children, seniors, people with disabilities and veterans.

  • $388.4M for mental health support services for adults, including $1M to expand community-based placements to alleviate longer than necessary stays in inpatient units or emergency rooms.

  • $144.1M for a range of substance abuse treatment, intervention and recovery support services.

  • $91.6M for mental health services for children and young people, including $3.7M for the Massachusetts Child Psychiatric Access Program and $300K for a loan forgiveness program to increase the number of mental health professionals treating children in underserved areas.

  • $50M for family support and stabilization services.

  • $31.3M for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

  • $24.2M to fully fund Department of Developmental Services Turning 22 services to help young people with disabilities transition to the adult services system.

  • $13.2M for Family Resource Centers, providing community-based services for families across the state.

  • $3.5M to encourage collaboration among agencies, schools and community partners to strengthen programming for early detection and screening for mental illness in children.

The budget also establishes an employer contribution to health care to raise $180 million in FY 2018, either through a temporary increase to the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution or through a time limited employer assessment as determined by the Administration.

The budget invests $464.1M in low income housing and homelessness services, with a focus on preventative and supportive resources to connect people with affordable, stable housing, as well as assistance for those in crisis. In addition to increasing funding, the budget expands access to housing and homelessness prevention resources by increasing the income threshold for rental vouchers, expanding eligibility for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program and increasing the HomeBASE re-housing subsidy cap to better divert families to housing.

  • $166.1M for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters.

  • $100M for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, providing funding for 350 to 400 new rental assistance vouchers.

  • $46.5M for assistance for homeless individuals.

  • $32.6M for the HomeBASE diversion and rapid re-housing program.

  • $18.5M for RAFT, providing short-term financial assistance to low income families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

  • $5.5M for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program to provide over 100 new rental assistance vouchers for low income people with disabilities.

  • $2.5M for housing and supportive services for unaccompanied homeless youth.

The budget also makes targeted investments to promote self-sufficiency among low income families and create opportunities for people to develop the skills they need to compete in the workforce and boost our economy.

  • $30.8M for adult basic education services.

  • $20M for civil legal aid services for low income people.

  • $17.6M for the emergency food assistance program.

  • $14.6M for the Department of Transitional Assistance Employment Services Program to help people move toward economic independence and self-sufficiency.

  • $12.5M for summer jobs and work-readiness training for at-risk youth.

  • $4M for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund.

  • $2.5M for Small Business Technical Assistance grants.

The budget continues the Senate’s strong partnership with municipalities in directing significant investments to local aid and community services.

  • $1.06B for Unrestricted General Government Aid to support community investments in education, health care, public safety and roads and bridges.

  • $83M for Regional Transit Authorities.

  • $26.7M for the Board of Library Commissioners, including $10.4M for regional library local aid, $9.8M for municipal libraries and $2.3M for technology and automated resources.

  • $16.5M for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support the state-wide creative economy and local arts and culture.

  • $14.2M for local Councils on Aging to strengthen programs and services in senior centers.

Finally, the budget includes several initiatives to maximize state and federal revenue opportunities, including a standing Tax Expenditure Review Commission to evaluate all tax expenditures and their fiscal impact. The budget also expands the room occupancy tax to short-term rentals and modifies the film tax credit to ensure the incentive benefits local communities, residents and business.

A Conference Committee will now work out the differences between the Senate budget and the version passed by the House of Representatives in April. Fiscal Year 2018 begins on July 1, 2017.

May is Mental Health Month


A column by state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan

By Leominster Champion | on May 18, 2017

As the chair of the Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery Committee, May is a very busy time. It has been dubbed Mental Health Month, and it is an important time for advocacy on policies regarding mental health, access to services, education, and awareness. It is critical to have this time be devoted to such an important topic that affects so many people.

In the United States, May has been recognized as Mental Health Month since 1949. The dedication of May as Mental Health Month began as a way to bring awareness to mental illness and to educate people on how to access services. Mental health may be a less taboo topic today, but there is still a lot of stigma surrounding it. As a result, advocacy is as significant today as it was in the past. The more we educate, the more comfortable people will feel getting help. This is critically important, especially for children, to see that needing support for ourselves is nothing to be embarrassed about.

To kick off Mental Health Month, each year my office holds an event at the end of April to educate the community on various issues surrounding mental health. This year, my office had the pleasure of hosting our event at Mount Wachusett Community College. Dr. Heather Brenhouse from Northeastern University presented on the brain’s neurological response to childhood trauma. Her presentation was fascinating and provided a lot of insight on how we will be viewing, treating, and preventing mental illness in the future. I look forward to reading more about her research to see how her team can further develop their data.

Mental illness looks very different depending on the age, sex, gender, and experience of the individual person. As a result, there are certain days and weeks in May that are dedicated to specific populations of people who are vulnerable to mental illness. For example, May 8 is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, and the first week in May is Maternal Mental Health Week. Organizations do this to highlight services and bring awareness to certain populations. These campaigns are a great way to educate and inform.

May is the perfect time to start practicing wellness. There are many ways to access information for mental health resources. For information on accessing services for mental health treatment, visit the following sites and explore some of the resources they have to offer:,, and

Flanagan to Host Mental Health Month Kickoff Event

By Leominster Champion | on April 20, 2017

ARDNER — State Sen. Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster) will be hosting the 15th annual Mental Health Month Kick Off event at Mount Wachusett Community College on Wednesday, April 26 at 4 p.m.

This year’s speaking program will feature Dr. Heather Brenhouse from Northeastern University. Brenhouse is an assistant professor of psychology at Northeastern focusing on behavioral neuroscience, developmental neuroscience, and psychology. Her research has been funded by the Brain Behavior Research Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health. Brenhouse will be presenting on her research, specifically the brain’s reaction to trauma in children.

Prior to the speaking program, there will be a provider information fair featuring human services agencies from all over North Central Massachusetts. This fair will offer resources and guidance from representatives of the various agencies. The provider fair will begin at 4 p.m., and the speaking program will follow at 5 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.

If you have questions regarding this event, or would like to have your business or agency featured during the provider fair, please call Flanagan’s office at (617) 722-1230.

April is critical to advocate for autism awareness

By Leominster Champion | on April 20, 2017

April 2 is recognized as Autism Awareness Day. Given the rising number of children who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, April is a critical month for advocacy. Massachusetts has several items on the budget and legislative agenda related to autism this session. It is important that my colleagues and I put forth priorities that will help those diagnosed with autism and their families.

According to Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts, there are 37,000 individuals and families on the Department of Developmental Services caseload. These individuals are served by the funding provided in the state’s budget.

There are several priorities for DDS in this year’s budget. Those include the line items of Turning 22, Day Employment, Community Residential, and Transportation. Fortunately, these were also fully funded by Gov. Charlie Baker and the House of Representatives.

The Turning 22 line item is especially important given the increase in individuals who are in need of that support. In 2010, there were 630 individuals who were qualified to access the Turning 22 benefit, and in 2018 there will be 975.

In addition to Turning 22, Family Support and Respite Services is also a crucial line item. Respite services are critical for families who are caring for their loved ones. Families are often the main caretakers, and they also need and deserve a break too. It is cost effective to support these families, and they deserve the assistance from the Commonwealth.

These programs give individuals purpose, opportunity and structure that is helpful in day-to-day living. Supporting these line items is crucial to the sustainability of DDS programs that assist persons who have spectrum disorders. I hope that all of my colleagues recognize the significance of these programs, and how much they matter to families caring for their loved ones. Let’s fully fund these programs and ensure that people have the services they need to survive and thrive in society.

In addition, in order to recognize Mental Health Month coming up in May, I will be hosting a kickoff event at Mount Wachusett Community College featuring Dr. Heather Brenhouse of Northeastern University. This event is being held Wednesday, April 26 at 4 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.

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


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:

Opening a tool kit for healthy lives

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

By Peter Jasinski,

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.


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 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.

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