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

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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.

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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.