postheadericon Beacon Hill Blotter: Recovery

An existing MA Recovery School

The word carries many meanings and, in current times, many implications. Japan is in the process of recovering from a devastating combination of an earthquake and the resulting tsunami, which has been further complicated by the partial melt-down of a coastal nuclear reactor. The US economy is fighting to get on the road to recovery following an economic melt-down, resulting from a combination of a housing bubble burst and a banking crisis with world-wide implications.

To residents on the Massachusetts South Shore, “recovery” also describes a proposed school to help kids dealing with substance abuse which is being proposed by a tremendous group of true grassroots activists, composed of parents, teachers, administrators, substance abuse counselors and civic leaders.

I was fortunate enough to attend a meeting keynoted by Senators Steven Tolman and John Keenan, Assistant Majority Leader and Chair of the Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, respectively. Presenting testimony to those gathered were Mr. Bill Carpenter , who has a son dealing with dependency, and the mother, Janis McGrory,  and sister, Amy, of Elizabeth “Liz” LeFort, who passed away only three months ago from an accidental overdose. The words spoken were, at once, heart wrenching, maddening and inspiring. To know that just one use of OxyContin will cause an immediate and lifetime craving for the drug is truly frightening. Listening to the pain of having to put on a brave public face when you’ve just had to call to have your child incarcerated to keep them from being on the street, using, is horrifying. And knowing that the chance of relapse is almost 100% when kids try to reintegrate back into their public schools leaves one wondering what we can do to rescue those hundreds of kids who want to be clean and get a good education.

Perhaps the most moving sentence I heard that morning was put simply, “there are no bad kids, just good kids who made a bad decision.” Once drugs have entered a kids body, they suffer a disease much like anyone with an ailment that needs medical attention and special counseling. What this school would do would provide an environment for learning, coupled with academic teachers who specialize with addiction and a peer group of students all battling to stay clean.

It’s been done in three places in Massachusetts; the north shore, Boston and Springfield. What’s missing is a school in the South Shore area. Programs like Learn to Cope and High Point Treatment Center help kids in the area, but with such widespread drug use in the region, the work is overwhelming.

The search for a location and the funding are underway. In a difficult budget year, it’s going to be tough, but for the sake of kids who can turn their life around and become a contributing part of our communities again, we can’t afford NOT to make this happen.

Been a busy few weeks, so I have to go back in the calendar a bit to catch up.

Past events:

Tom Donohue, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Tom Donohue, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Monday (3/7): At State House for meetings, plus legislative luncheon for the Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs.
Tuesday (3/8): Work & meetings in the district office (529 Washington Street, Whitman)
Wednesday (3/9): At State House, met with NCSL reps in from Colorado to meet new legislators. The Regional School caucus then met for the first meeting of the session. Followed by formal session to vote on House Bill 39, “An Act reorganizing the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development” and on a Local Aid foundation budget resolution. (Proposed by Republican caucus, defeated along party lines.) Was followed by a ceremony for Rep. Harold Naughton, who received the Combat Action Badge in his service in Iraq.
Thursday (3/10): South Shore Chamber’s “Annual Luncheon Meeting”, featuring US Chamber President & CEO, Thomas J. Donohue. Later in the day, a meeting with House Ways & Means Chairman Brian Dempsey to review my district’s budget priorities. After work, a roundtable discussion with Sheriff Hodgson and a MassGOP VIP reception with new legislators, both at the Union Club in Boston.
Friday (3/11): Attended a Plymouth District Medical Society Breakfast at the Good Samaritan hospital in Brockton to hear about ACOs as part of health care initiatives, followed by the briefing at North River Collaborative to hear about the Recovery School efforts (as described above). Immediately after that, I was given a tour of the South Shore Voc Tech school – a great lunch by the kids and an incredible facility!

Monday (3/14): Received a personal tour of Southfield, the former Weymouth Naval Air Station, given by Abington’s Kevin Donovan of Tri-Town. Worked out of the A photo of my crew before the St. Patty’s Parade in Abingtondistrict office and had a constituent meeting at 5pm.
Tuesday (3/15): Met with Representatives of the Mass. Nurses Association at the State House.
Wednesday (3/16): The first Library Caucus meeting was held at the State House. Following that, I went to the Omni Parker for an AFL-CIO Breakfast/Open House. The remainder of the day, I spent at the Melissa’s Bill hearing from 1-4pm to hear all testimony presented.
Thursday (3/17): House GOP caucus at the State House, then went to Rep. Rhonda Nyman’s St. Patty’s event at the Abington VFW.
Friday (3/18): A great luncheon at the Raynham Stoneforge with SMEDA  (representing  Housing Authorities) to learn about the challenges that face senior housing.
Sunday  (3/20): Had a great St. Patrick’s Parade in Abington with campaign friends and family.

Monday (3/21): Spent the day at Colt manufacturing in CT to look at new bullet traps that will be used in the construction of a regional gun range at the Plymouth County Sheriff’s department. The range will allow for tactical training and firing of high caliber weaponry specific to federal standards and currently unavailable to officers in the region.
Tuesday (3/22): Had “District Hour with Diehl” sessions at the Whitman senior center and at the Abington senior center, to talk with staff, administration and seniors about issues facing them. That evening, I spoke in front of the Whitman Board of Selectmen to review regional transportation costs, municipal retiree healthcare costs, the recovery school, plus my feelings on the Senators in WI and how it relates to the collective bargaining issues here in the Commonwealth.
Wednesday (3/23): Met with Dr. Wall of Massasoit Community College to learn more about programs they have and are adding, plus learned about legislative priorities.
Thursday (3/24): Attended a meet & greet with newly elected State Auditor Suzanne Bump to learn what are the priorities for that office. Then met with Southeast Regional Caucus to review common goals for South Shore area, legislatively.
Friday (3/25): District office hours, plus a “District Hour with Diehl” at the East Bridgewater senior center – talked with folks involved in a mean game of cribbage!

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A list, plus description, of ten more legislative co-sponsorships for this session (will continue to detail in the weeks following):

HD01934: An Act Requiring Photo Identification for Voters Casting Provisional Ballots.  Rep. Shaunna O’Connell
  – Part of the overall goal of requiring a MA ID to vote.

HD02080: An Act Relative to Affordable Housing. Rep. Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (House GOP Caucus)
  – This legislation codifies several concerns raised by the Chapter 40B Task Force by allowing for community control over local needs, offering increased technical assistance, establishing improved reporting and inventory standards, approving regional cooperation measures, and including a number of additional units in the determination of the local affordable housing threshold. Also included are provisions encouraging green building and allowing local authorities to cite dwindling water supplies as an allowable impediment to producing additional affordable housing.

HD02087: An Act Relative to Municipal Health Insurance Reform. Rep. Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (House GOP Caucus)
  – Plan Design, as supported by several mayors and the Masachusetts Municipal Association, calls for removing health care decisions from the collective bargaining requirement. By implementing Plan Design, municipalities would have the same kind of authority that the state has in determining health insurance costs for their employees. In addition to Plan Design this bill also includes provisions stating that all eligible employees or retirees shall transfer to Medicare coverage. (Provisions are the same as the Municipal Medicare Reform Bill)

HD02089: An Act Eliminating the Pacheco Law. Rep. Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (House GOP Caucus)
  – This legislation reduces the cost of state services by repealing the Pacheco Law and allowing private investment companies to compete.

HD02092: An Act Relative to Local Approval of Municipal Health Insurance Reform.  Rep. Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (House GOP Caucus)
  – This legislation gives cities and towns the authority to place the option of Plan Design on the ballot. By implementing Plan Design, municipalities would have the same kind of authority that the state has in determining health insurance costs for their employees.

HD02099: An Act Relative to Public Housing Restrictions for Sex Offenders.  Rep. Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (House GOP Caucus)
  – This legislation denies access to public housing facilities that are subsidized by the commonwealth for all persons who have been convicted of Level 2 or Level 3 sex offenses in the Commonwealth.

HD02100: An Act Regarding Municipal Health Insurance Plans.  Rep. Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (House GOP Caucus)
  – Accompanies HD02092. This legislation gives cities and towns the authority to place the option of Plan Design on the ballot. By implementing Plan Design, municipalities would have the same kind of authority that the state has in determining health insurance costs for their employees.

HD02104: An Act Relative to the Stabilization Fund.  Rep. Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (House GOP Caucus)
  – This legislation requires two-thirds of the members of each legislative body to affirmatively support the use of so-called “Rainy Day” funds to balance the budget.

HD02108: An Act Relative to the State Auditor to Audit the General Court. Rep. Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (House GOP Caucus)
  – This legislation would allow the state auditor to access the finances of the General Court for her review, and a public report.

HD02111: An Act Relative to Public Housing Restrictions. Rep. Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (House GOP Caucus)
  – This legislation prohibits any applicant for assisting housing, who is not eligible for federal housing and is not a resident of the US, from displacing an applicant who is so eligible.

This wraps up another Beacon Hill Blotter post for the 7th Plymouth District. April will be filled with budget hearings and debates, so I will relay news on Local Aid, Ch. 70 and other line items in as timely a manner as possible.

Thank you, as always, for allowing me to be your voice on Beacon Hill!

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