Winchester Awarded State Grant for Shared Streets & Spaces

Winchester’s state delegation, Representative Michael S. Day, Senator Jason Lewis and Senator Patricia Jehlen, announced that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) recently selected Winchester as a recipient of funding under MassDOT’s Shared Streets and Spaces grant program. Shared Streets and Spaces is a quick-launch/quick-build grant program administered in response to the detrimental economic and community impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides funding for cities and towns to quickly implement or expand improvements to sidewalks, curbs, streets, on-street parking spaces and off-street parking lots that support public health, safe mobility and increased commerce.

Through this program, Winchester will receive $125,974.80 to provide traffic calming in the town center, reconstruct curb ramps on segments of the Tri-Community Greenway and create a two-way bike lane connecting to Winchester High School.

“This grant will support and enhance our community’s adjustments to new challenges posed by the pandemic, and will enable town government to implement safety and economic development measures that will benefit us all,” said Representative Michael Day. “This is another example of the state listening to the needs of our towns and responding quickly with the assistance requested and I applaud all parties for working cooperatively and making this program work for Winchester. This is very good and welcome news.”

“It is great that Winchester will be able to improve accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists with the Shared Streets grant,” said Senator Pat Jehlen. I hope it enables people to safely take socially-distanced walks and visit the shops and restaurants in Town Center that need our support more than ever.”

“Winchester’s Town Center is a vital hub of the community’s economic, social and civic life, and this important grant funding will allow the town to do even more to ensure safety, accessibility and usability for all residents and local businesses,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “This grant will help Winchester to create safe and accessible shared spaces that will benefits pedestrians, students, commuters and local merchants.”

Successful Shared Streets and Spaces projects must be implemented quickly, flexibly, at low cost, and without major roadway reconstruction. Grant recipients are also encouraged to consider how a successful project could eventually be made permanent.

Now that MassDOT has officially named Winchester as a grant recipient, town and state officials will work together to advance the projects included.

Malden Awarded State Grant for Shared Streets & Spaces

Malden’s legislative delegation and city leaders announced that the City of Malden was selected for the latest round of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Shared Streets and Spaces grant program. As a response to the economic and community impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Shared Streets and Spaces quick-launch/quick-build grant program provides for cities and towns to quickly implement or expand improvements to sidewalks, curbs, streets, on-street parking spaces and off-street parking lots in support of public health, safe mobility, and renewed commerce in their communities.

The City of Malden will receive $211,714.80 to create a dedicated bus lane to Malden Station, closing gaps between bicycle lanes and providing spaces along downtown streets to support additional outdoor dining and commerce.

“As the pandemic forces communities to think differently about our shared spaces, especially in our downtown commercial districts, we need to keep prioritizing safety, accessibility and convenience for all,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “This grant will help Malden to create safe and accessible shared spaces that will benefits pedestrians, commuters and local merchants.”

“I am pleased to see that Malden has received these needed funds to help reinvent Exchange Street so businesses, pedestrians and visitors to the area will be able to enjoy a much-improved experience,” said Representative Paul Donato. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Malden Delegation on projects such as this that will benefit our community.”

“Expanding access to mass transit and enhancing the quality of the mass transit experience has been one of my top goals, reflecting the priorities of our community,” said Representative Kate Lipper-Garabedian. “I am pleased that Malden’s efforts will be enhanced through this grant with the creation of a dedicated bus lane and will advocate for continued improvements to the Malden Station infrastructure.”

“Updating transportation infrastructure to address the needs of commuters of all modalities and support small businesses is key to Malden’s future” said Representative Steven Ultrino. “These funds from MassDOT will make our roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists, bus riders, and drivers, while also giving Malden’s local businesses the space they need to continue serving our community during this difficult time. I’m proud to have advocated for this funding to support a strong future for all here in Malden.”

Stephen Winslow, Malden City Councillor at Large commented for the City: “On behalf of Mayor Christenson and my fellow Councillors, we thank MassDOT for this opportunity. Prior to COVID-19, Malden residents relied heavily on bus and subway service to travel to work and school, and many still do. Our streets simply cannot handle the traffic that would result if everyone who took transit in Malden gets in a car. These projects support more socially-distanced travel options for Maldonians as we live through and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and will also serve to demonstrate actions we can use post COVID-19 to travel safely and efficiently. The parklet on Pleasant Street will expand dining options in our Downtown which has and will be a critical engine in Malden’s future.”

Successful Shared Streets and Spaces projects are designed to be implemented quickly, flexibly, at low cost, and without major roadway reconstruction. Grant recipients are also encouraged to consider how a successful project could eventually be made permanent.

Now that the City of Malden has been named a grant recipient, city officials and MassDOT will work together to advance the project.

What Voters Need to Know Before the November 3 Election

With more options than ever available for you to cast your vote this fall, here’s all of the information you need in order to safely and conveniently vote!

Voting options for the November 3 General Election:

    1. Vote By Mail If you are a registered voter, expect to receive an application to vote with a mail-in ballot for the 2020 elections. Your town or city clerk will mail you a ballot after you submit a request. If you didn’t receive an application to vote by mail, you can contact your town or city clerk to request one. You can track the status of your ballot here.
    2. Early In-Person Voting From October 17 to October 30, votes can be cast in person at designated sites. To learn about your community’s early voting schedule, contact your town or city clerk.
    3. Election Day In-Person Voting Voters who did not participate in mail-in or early voting can vote in the traditional fashion on November 3 at their designated polling place.

Important dates to keep in mind:

  • Late September – Secretary of State mails Vote by Mail applications to all voters who have not already requested a November 3 mail-in ballot
  • Early October – Town and City Clerks begin mailing ballots to Vote by Mail voters
  • October 17, 2020 – Early In-Person Voting Begins
  • October 24, 2020 – Last Day to Register to Vote and Change Party Enrollment
  • October 28, 2020 – Deadline to submit a Vote by Mail or Absentee Ballot application for mailed ballot for election
  • October 30, 2020 – Early In-Person Voting Ends
  • November 3, 2020 – General Election

Visit the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s website or contact the Town and City Clerks of the Fifth Middlesex District to learn where and how you can vote:

  • Malden City Clerk Greg Lucey, Email or call (781) 397-7116
  • Melrose City Clerk Amy Kamosa, Email or call (781) 979-4113
  • Reading Town Clerk Laura Gemme, Contact or call (781) 942-6647
  • Stoneham Town Clerk Maria Sagarino, Contact or call (781) 279-2650
  • Wakefield Town Clerk Betsy Sheeran, Contact or call (781) 246-6383
  • Winchester Town Clerk MaryEllen Lannon, Email or call (781) 721-7130

If you have further questions about voting this fall, feel free to contact your local clerk or the office of State Senator Jason Lewis at Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov or (617) 722-1206.

 

Senate Passes Bill to Limit Use of Step Therapy

On July 30, with the support of Senator Jason Lewis, the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation to limit the use of step therapy, or ‘fail-first’ protocols that too often direct patients to cheaper medications rather than those more suitable to treat their conditions. An Act relative to step therapy and patient safety gives doctors more discretion in determining the most effective treatment options for their patients, saving patients expensive and painful regimens on medications they know to be ineffective or even harmful.

This legislation builds on the state Senate’s ongoing commitment to creating a more affordable, accessible, and patient-centered health care system for everyone in the Commonwealth. Earlier this legislative session, the Senate passed legislation to contain rising prescription drug costs, increase access to affordable mental health services, and expand access to telehealth even after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us.

“This legislation puts medical decisions where they belong: in the hands of patients and their doctors, instead of letting health insurers dictate treatment protocols” said Senator Jason Lewis. “Especially for people living with a variety of chronic illnesses, step therapy can be harmful to their health, and I’m very grateful to advocates like Sammantha Dorazio who have long pushed for this legislation.”

“Going through step therapy was a real-life nightmare,” said Sammantha Dorazio, Malden resident and arthritis patient advocate. “I cried tears of joy when I got the news that the step therapy bill passed. This is a huge win for the arthritis community.”

Step therapy serves as a cost-saving mechanism that can limit a patient’s ability to access the medication that is most suitable for treating their condition. Insurers that utilize step therapy protocols require medical providers to prescribe lower-cost medications to patients first, and only grant approval for alternative medications when the cheaper options have failed to improve a patient’s condition. In practice, this results in insurers effectively choosing medications for the patient, even in cases where their doctors have recommended an alternative. When patients change insurers, they are often forced to start at the beginning of the step therapy protocol again, which results in wasteful health care expenditures, lost time for patients, and potentially devastating health care impacts on the patient.

Step therapy is not limited to specific disease states. It affects patients across the healthcare spectrum, with particularly dramatic impacts on the Allergy and Asthma, Antipsychotic, Arthritis, Cancer, Coronary Artery, Depression, Diabetes, HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s patient communities.

The bill would establish guardrails to protect patients in circumstances in which following step therapy protocols are counterproductive or harmful. It would require MassHealth and private insurers to grant exemptions to step therapy protocols in cases where the protocol-required cost-effective drug is likely to cause harm, is expected to be ineffective, has been tried by the patient previously, is not in the best interest of the patient, or adopting it in concert with the patient’s existing medications would cause harm. Upon granting exemptions, MassHealth and private insurers would be required to provide coverage for the drug recommended by the patient’s provider.

If passed into law, Massachusetts would join 28 other states in curbing harmful step therapy practices. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.

Sen. Lewis Supports Passage of Bills to Advance Women’s Health & Reduce Health Disparities

On July 30, 2020, the Massachusetts State Senate unanimously passed three bipartisan bills to increase birth options and safety for pregnant women in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. One bill establishes a commission to address racial inequities in maternal healthcare; another increases options for safe, professional birthing care by licensing midwifery; and the third bill creates a commission to study barriers to substance use treatment for women in the perinatal period.

“Black women in Massachusetts are twice as likely to die in childbirth as white women, and this unacceptable racial health disparity must be addressed,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “This package of bipartisan bills will advance women’s health and reduce health disparities.”

An Act to reduce racial disparities in maternal health establishes a special commission to address the continuing racial inequities in the Commonwealth’s maternal health outcomes, specifically in cases of maternal mortality and morbidity. Among the developed nations of the world, only the U.S. continues to allow people giving birth to die in increasing numbers, and the outcomes are staggeringly worse for people of color, who experienced a 238% increase in the risk of maternal death between 1978 and 2015.

The commission will bring together diverse perspectives on maternal health and racial health disparities and will include public health experts, physicians, midwives, a doula, and individuals with first-hand experience with health disparities, including a survivor of maternal morbidity. The bill requires that a majority of commission members represent Massachusetts communities most impacted by maternal health inequity, which statistically have been black and brown communities. The commission must submit a report of its findings and recommendations, including any draft legislation necessary to achieve the recommendations of the commission, within one year of its creation.

An Act relative to out-of-hospital birth access and safety creates a licensure process for certified professional midwives who provide home birth services, which are less expensive than hospital-based birth and associated with healthy birth outcomes, including lower rates of Caesarean section and fewer postpartum complications. This credentialing process will standardize midwifery training and qualifications, provide consumers with transparent information when seeking a home birth, and facilitate the hospital transfer process in the event of labor complications.

An Act relative to improving access to treatment for individuals with perinatal substance use disorder creates a special commission to study the barriers to substance use treatment for women in the perinatal period. This commission will bring together the Department of Mental Health (DMH), the Department of Public Health (DPH), the Department of Children and Families (DCF), MassHealth, the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, and private partners with expertise in maternal mental health and substance use treatment to ensure all pregnant and postpartum women with substance use disorder have access to the care they need.

These three maternal health bills now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Sen. Lewis and Rep. Day Announce Completion of New Stone Zoo Bus Stop

State Senator Jason Lewis and State Representative Michael Day are pleased to announce the completion of construction of a new bus stop at Stone Zoo on Pond Street for the MBTA 132 bus route.

The 132 Bus, which begins at Redstone Shopping Plaza and extends to the Oak Grove and Malden Center MBTA stations, is a major public transit route for Stoneham commuters, workers, families, and other residents. Senator Lewis and Representative Day, along with Stoneham officials, residents, and Zoo New England (which operates the Stone Zoo), have advocated for years for the addition of this bus stop to the 132 Bus route. The new bus stop will make popular recreational destinations, including the Stone Zoo, Greenwood Park, and the Middlesex Fells Reservation, more accessible to families from Stoneham and neighboring towns.

“I’m excited that the long-discussed Stone Zoo bus stop has finally been completed and will now provide greater access to the Zoo and other recreational opportunities for families from Stoneham and throughout the region,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “This project has been very challenging and I’m grateful for the collaboration, hard work, and persistence of the MBTA, DCR, Town of Stoneham, Stoneham Transportation Advisory Committee, Zoo New England, and Rep. Day that it took to get this done.”

“This new bus stop will further enhance access to this jewel of our community, bringing the Zoo, Spot Pond, Greenwood Park and the natural attractions of the Fells much closer to our families,” said Representative Michael Day.  “This was a true team effort, requiring collaboration from state agencies, our legislative team, town officials, Zoo New England staff and Stoneham citizen advocacy groups to make this a reality.  I look forward to the addition of this new stop into the official bus route in the near future and future collaborations to continue to improve the lives of our residents.”

“It’s so important that the Stone Zoo and Greenwood Park will finally be accessible through public transportation, a service relied on by so many residents of Stoneham and the entire region,” said Raymie Parker, Chair of the Stoneham Select Board and a member of the Stoneham Transportation Advisory Committee (STAC). “Along with many others, I am particularly grateful to Senator Lewis and Representative Day for their assistance and support in championing this project.”

“We are grateful for all the support in making this bus stop at Stone Zoo a reality,” said Cynthia Mead, Executive Vice President for Zoo New England. “Public transportation to Stone Zoo is critically aligned to our mission of conservation and removing barriers that might prevent more people visiting the Zoo.”

The MBTA is expected to add the new bus stop into the official 132 bus schedule with the next bus route schedule update, anticipated as early as this fall.

Malden Legislators Announce Completion of Safety Improvements to Notorious Fellsway-Highland Intersection

On Friday, August 7, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) activated the traffic signal at the newly completed intersection at Fellsway East and Highland Avenue in the City of Malden. Malden’s legislative delegation and local leaders heralded the completion of the major safety improvements at the intersection.

This intersection improvement project will have several benefits for the community, including:

  • Improved safety for all users within the intersection
  • Narrower roadway widths to reduce vehicle speeds
  • Six pedestrian crosswalks, all controlled by WALK signs
  • Curb extensions to reduce the lengths of crosswalks
  • New bike lanes on Fellsway East northbound.

“For years, neighborhood advocates, city leaders and state officials have been united in their calls to fix the treacherous Fellsway-Highland intersection, and after careful planning, diligent follow-up and hard work from all stakeholders, this long-overdue safety and traffic improvement is complete,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “I’m grateful to Mayor Christenson, the Malden City Council and Department of Public Works, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and my colleagues in Malden’s legislative delegation for their collaboration and partnership as we all worked together over the last five years to fix Fellsway-Highland and make it safe for motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and all users.”

“It is great to finally see the completion of this important project that is the culmination of a lot of hard work and input from community and civic leaders,” said Representative Paul Donato. “As someone who lives in the area and travels it frequently, I look forward to a safer experience for all who drive, bicycle, or walk through this busy intersection.”

The intersection of Fellsway East and Highland Avenue, along a heavily traveled corridor used by commuters and local traffic, was notorious for its operational and safety issues and high number of crashes.   In the past, this intersection was ranked number 77 on the 2006-2008 Statewide Top 200 Intersections Crash List.

In 2015, the Malden legislative delegation brought together the DCR and the City of Malden to fund a $30,000 traffic study for this intersection. Because the Fellsway is a state road administered by DCR and Highland Avenue is a city road, state and city officials cooperated closely on the planning and implementation of the improvements to the notorious Ward 3 intersection.

“Street safety for all modalities has always been a priority in my career on the Melrose City Council and now as State Representative,” said Representative Kate Lipper-Garabedian.  “This state-local partnership results in critical improvements at a highly trafficked intersection, and I am grateful for all the work and effort that made this project successful.”

“We heard loud and clear from community members that this intersection needed a change,” said Representative Steve Ultrino of the Fellsway-Highland improvements. “I’m proud of the way our delegation came together to hear those concerns and take action to make this intersection safe for drivers, bikers and pedestrians.”

After the conclusion of the study and public comments from Malden residents, DCR began the safety improvements at the intersection in 2019. Improvements included traffic signals, crosswalks with ADA compliant wheelchair ramps; bike lanes; and reconfigured intersection geometry to improve safety for pedestrians and motorists. As part of the state budget for Fiscal Year 2019, Malden legislators secured $100,000 in state funding for the project by passing a budget amendment filed by Senator Lewis. Later, legislators won an additional $200,000 for this project as part of a Fiscal Year 2020 supplemental state budget bill.

“I could not be more pleased with the outcome of this long-awaited improvement to an intersection that has been a safety risk for our residents,” said Mayor Gary Christenson. “City Councillors-At-Large Craig Spadafora and Debbie DeMaria along with the neighborhood, our partners in the State delegation and DCR made solving this challenge possible, and I’m appreciative of the proactive approach they took in making this happen.”

“On behalf of the entire West End neighborhood, we are so grateful for the safety enhancements now completed at Fellsway East and Highland Avenue. This intersection has been a top concern of neighbors for many years, and it’s a tremendous relief knowing that people who are walking, biking, driving, or who have accessibility needs now have an equal ability to navigate this area safely,” said Amanda Linehan, Ward 3 City Councillor in Malden. “I am tremendously thankful for the excellent communication among DCR and the City of Malden during construction, and especially to Senator Lewis for helping to secure funding for this project in these challenging economic times.”

Mass. Legislature Passes Breakfast After the Bell Legislation to Fight Childhood Hunger

On July 27, the Massachusetts Legislature gave final approval to legislation to fight childhood hunger and boost participation rates in school breakfast programs in schools with high percentages of students from low-income families in the Commonwealth. The bill, An Act regarding breakfast after the bell, would require all public K-12 schools with 60 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program to offer breakfast after the instructional day begins.

Massachusetts currently requires all schools with high percentages of students from low-income families to provide breakfast to every eligible student. However, because breakfast is typically offered before the bell and in the cafeteria, participation levels are low—less than 40 percent—compared to 80-90 percent participation for free and reduced lunch. Moving breakfast from before the bell to after the bell is a proven strategy to boost breakfast participation and ensure that all students have the nutrition they need to start their day ready to learn.

“We all understand that a hungry student is not ready to be a successful student, and Breakfast After the Bell is a proven strategy to close the hunger gap and ensure that all kids can start their school day on a level playing field,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education and a longtime advocate for the legislation. “As the Commonwealth continues to strive for an excellent and equitable educational experience for every child, regardless of their ZIP code or family income, this is an important step along the road to closing opportunity and achievement gaps in our schools.”

This legislation would require schools across Massachusetts serving large numbers of low-income students to offer breakfast after the start of the instructional day. They can select from a variety of delivery models, including breakfast in the classroom, grab-and-go, and second-chance breakfast. This flexibility allows school districts to select the model that best fits their students’ needs.

As a federally reimbursed program, Breakfast After the Bell has the potential to provide up to $25 million statewide to Massachusetts school districts that increase participation rates to 80 percent and above. These payments are made directly to school nutrition departments, helping to support jobs, update kitchen equipment, and provide healthier menu options.

Governor Baker signed the bill into law on August 4, 2020.

Sen. Lewis Supports Passage of Genocide Education Bill

On July 30, the Massachusetts Senate with support from Senator Jason Lewis passed An Act concerning genocide education to improve the education of middle and high school students on the history of genocide and to promote the teaching of human rights issues.

“It is shocking how many young people today have never heard of the Auschwitz concentration camp, the Holocaust, or other heinous genocides perpetrated in the past,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “This important legislation will ensure that more students understand the history of genocide so that it never happens again. I’m grateful to Senator Michael Rodrigues for championing this legislation and to all of the educators and advocates who have worked to see this bill passed.”

According to a 2018 article in the New York Times, 41% of Americans and 66% of millennials do not know what Auschwitz is. This legislation would establish a Genocide Education Trust Fund to promote and educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide. The Trust Fund would ensure the development of appropriate curricular materials, as well as provide professional development training to assist educators in the teaching of genocide.

“The need for Holocaust and genocide education in K-12 schools could not be more urgent. Massachusetts now has an opportunity to use the power of education to address hate through this essential initiative,” said Robert Trestan, ADL New England Regional Director.

The bill requires each school district to annually file a description of their lesson plan and programs related to genocide education with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The bill also establishes a competitive grant program to which schools and districts can apply for additional programming support.

The bill now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.

Sen. Lewis Joins Unanimous Vote to Increase Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Developmental Disabilities

On July 27, Senator Jason Lewis joined colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate to support legislation that removes existing barriers for students with intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders or other developmental disabilities so they can attend public institutions of higher education. The bill, which passed with bipartisan support, honors the spirit of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law 30 years ago by President George H.W. Bush.

Under An Act Creating Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, students would not be required to pass the MCAS, have a high school diploma, meet minimum requirements for academic courses, or take college entrance exams in order to access inclusive academic, social, and career development opportunities on college campuses with their peers. In addition, the bill also makes clear that strengthening access to higher education for students with disabilities is a goal of the Commonwealth’s higher education system.

“Everyone in Massachusetts deserves access to a high quality education, but currently there are numerous barriers preventing some students with disabilities from accessing higher education opportunities,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “The Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative at Middlesex Community College which serves a number of my constituents is a fantastic program, and I’m very pleased that this legislation will enable more students to enroll in programs like this across the Commonwealth.”

“We are proud that many community colleges are already experienced with inclusive concurrent enrollment programs, and know first-hand that participating students gain life skills and education that increase their ability to live more empowered, independent, and inclusive lives,” said Tom Sannicandro, Director of the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges. “This bill creates a life changing opportunity by breaking down barriers to higher education for students with disabilities. We are happy to see the bill move forward to expand this critical program to more students in Massachusetts.”

Building on the success of the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI) grant program, the bill codifies that program, which enables school districts and public institutions of higher education to partner together to offer inclusive concurrent enrollment initiative options for students with disabilities ages 18 to 22. Since 2007, over 1,200 students with disabilities have taken advantage of the opportunity to participate academically and socially in the life of participating colleges in Massachusetts through the MAICEI program.

In response to the challenges facing school districts and public higher education institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senate bill ensures no additional costs are placed on a school district beyond the existing obligations already required under state and federal special education law.

Furthermore, the bill also ensures that colleges are not required to bear any additional costs of providing individual supports and services for students with severe intellectual disabilities, severe autism spectrum disorders, or other severe developmental disabilities who attend the college through the MAICEI initiative.

The bill now heads to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for their consideration.