LEGISLATIVE UPDATES - FEBRUARY 2021
A message from MA State Senator Diana DiZoglio
Beyond the physical and financial anxiety that countless of us have felt since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have also experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation.
While many of us have gone through life without the internet and mobile devices in the past, we haven’t gone through life without face-to-face social gatherings and a shutdown of our businesses simultaneously. The emergency and its toll on our physical health and economy have had a detrimental impact on many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and addiction.
Massachusetts residents have historically experienced difficulty accessing mental health services due to health inequities and persistent barriers to care, leaving many without the treatment they need and deserve. According to a 2018 report by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts, over half of a representative sample of fully insured adults who sought mental health care services reported difficulty finding services. We have too many families who struggle to obtain access to treatment, with many having to travel too far or wait too long to get help.
That is why I am grateful the Massachusetts Senate made mental health care reform a priority in the recent legislative session.
We passed with unanimous, bipartisan support the Mental Health ABC Act, comprehensive mental health legislation that seeks to increase access by removing barriers to timely quality care, providing the state with more effective tools to enforce existing mental health parity laws, and investing in the mental and behavioral health workforce pipeline. The legislation streamlines the licensing of qualified mental health professionals and requires insurance coverage of community-based psychiatric emergency service programs.
Every day across Massachusetts, adults and children arrive in emergency departments requiring immediate treatment. Due to restrictive medical necessity and prior authorization review processes imposed by insurance companies, many patients experience barriers and delays in treatment – creating a dysfunctional system that allows insurance companies to have more leverage in determining a patient’s course of treatment than health care providers. This bill mandates coverage and eliminates prior authorization for mental health acute treatment for adults and children experiencing acute mental health crises, placing treatment decisions in the hands of the treating clinician, in consultation with the patient, rather than an insurance company.
Moreover, the Legislature this session secured record funding levels for mental health services for both adults and children and passed legislation prohibiting insurers from denying coverage for mental health services and primary care services solely because they were delivered on the same day in the same facility. Now more than ever during this emergency, we have realized how vital mental health services are to our communities. Let’s continue look out for one another over the course of this emergency and check in on our neighbors, coworkers, family and friends to let them know they're not alone. A phone call from someone who cares can be just the thing someone needs.
If you or a family member are experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder crisis, the Commonwealth’s Emergency Services Program/Mobile Crisis Intervention (ESP/MCI), operated by the Department of Mental Health, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call toll-free at 1 (877) 382-1609, anytime, day or night.
If you have questions about this or any other issue, please contact me and my team anytime via email at email@example.com or phone 978-984-7747.
Yours in service,
A message from Representative James M. Kelcourse:
The groundhog always seems to know best, there is certainly still more of winter to come. The first few major storms are now behind us, and Tom Brady went on to win another Superbowl, the light is at the end of the tunnel. My fellow legislators and I have been hard at work drafting bills to be filed in the 192nd Session of the Massachusetts General Court. The deadline to file bills is February 19th, but co-sponsorship opportunities will remain open until the bill goes to hearing.
Please feel free to reach out to my office with any pieces of legislation that you would like to see me support, and I would be more than happy to look further into it. This is the best way that I can advocate for you, the great citizens and business owners of Salisbury, Newburyport, and Amesbury! Additionally, my office has been working to assist those who are currently eligible to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccination, and have had trouble doing so. If you are a patient of the Beth Israel Lahey Health medical group, you should be receiving an email with an invitation to sign up for an appointment. The 2-1-1 phone line is also currently available from 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. The line can be accessed by dialing 2–1–1 and selecting the prompt for “Help Scheduling a Vaccine Appointment.” Once connected with a representative, the caller will be asked to confirm he/she is 75 or older and either has no internet access or otherwise cannot use the website to book an appointment. Representatives will then use the state’s COVID-19 vaccine site map to find nearby locations and available appointments. If no appointments are available within a distance the caller can travel, callers will be offered the chance to be placed on a call-back list for the mass vaccination sites. Residents will receive a call-back as appointments become available at these sites. Due to high demand and limited supply, callers may experience significant wait times.
The Administration will monitor wait times and make necessary adjustments. Should you have any questions or need assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (978) 465-1777
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