Police reform bill passes House

On Friday evening (7/24/2020), I joined 92 of my House colleagues in voting for a bill (H.4860, published as H4886, as amended) that will create a more modern, transparent and accountable system for law enforcement credentialing and training.  Forty-six states in America certify their police officers. Massachusetts is one of the four that does not.

This certification and licensing process will make our system stronger and bias free. And it will make it a better atmosphere for those who serve proudly and honorably

I very much support the police. My vote reflects my desire, along with that of the many officers and chiefs I spoke with in considering the bill, to get rid of the bad apples. They are a stain on the 99% who do a great job.

We spent 35 hours over three days deliberating the bill, held public hearings on many of the components of the bill over the last year, and had another public hearing last week. We considered 217 amendments and the over 800 pieces of testimony that were submitted. I personally met with and spoke with several officers about the bill and listened to their concerns. In addition, I did a great deal of research on my own, incorporating my 34 years of experience as a trial attorney in Massachusetts. Moreover, I listened to and consulted with many of my colleagues in the House, one who happens to be a retired Massachusetts Police Chief.

Certification is important for all professionals. Indeed, lawyers are licensed and have the BBO lookup system which provides information on attorneys and any disciplinary records. Doctors are licensed and utilize a Physician Profiles website which lists Board discipline, criminal convictions, hospital discipline and medical malpractice payments reported to the Board of Registration in Medicine. The woman who cuts my hair is licensed by the Commonwealth. And legislators, while not licensed, are accountable to the people and can be removed from office at elections held every two years.

How did we get here?

Over the last several months, we heard repeated stories about racism and demands that we as a Legislature change how we think about public safety. We have been implored to address the causes of systemic racism. And we saw repeated stories in the news and the courts about questionable conduct in the public safety arena such as:

And it disturbs me that some parents who have children of color feel compelled to have “the talk” about “driving while black” and what to do if they are approached by police. It is horrifying that any parent has to have that conversation. But racial profiling is a reality, and in these days of repeated and sometimes fatal confrontations, captured by cellphone videos, such warnings can be a matter of life and death.

This legislation is a partial response that would establish a right of citizens to “bias-free policing” in Massachusetts. We know that most of our officers are bias free, but we owe a duty to the public and to the members of law enforcement to ensure that training is consistent and is available in all areas of the state.

Certification

The bill creates a seven-member independent Police Standards and Training Commission (MPSTC) appointed by the governor and the attorney general. This Commission will oversee police certification, discipline and training standards and will have the authority to conduct preliminary inquiries, revocation and suspension proceedings and hearings. This Commission will include law enforcement representation but will be primarily civilian led. The Commission will maintain a database of decertified personnel.

Within the Commission will be a Division of Training and Certification which will establish uniform policies for the training and certification for law enforcement. This Division allows for a strong police presence in the development of standards as follows:

The division of police training and certification shall be under the management and control of a committee on police training and certification. The committee shall consist of: 5 chiefs of police to be appointed by the governor from nominations submitted by the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association Incorporated, 1 of whom shall be from the western Massachusetts region, 1 of whom shall be from the central Massachusetts region, 1 of whom shall be from the southeastern Massachusetts region, 1 of whom shall be from the northeastern Massachusetts region and 1 of whom shall be from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority; 1 chief of police selected by the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association Incorporated; 1 police officer to be appointed by the governor from nominations submitted by the Massachusetts Police Association, Inc. executive board and the Massachusetts Police Training Officers Association, Inc. executive board; the commissioner of police of the city of Boston; the colonel of state police or a designee; 2 sheriffs appointed by the governor; the attorney general or a designee; and 1 person to be appointed by the secretary of public safety and security. All such appointments shall be for terms of 3 years with successors appointed in a like manner.

The bill also establishes new training and certification requirements for school resource officers, and establishes a new commission to develop a memorandum of understanding about the role of school resource officers and how they will interact with students.

Qualified Immunity

The House bill does not make changes in the application of qualified immunity, except in one narrow situation: If, following an evidentiary process and appeal, a law enforcement officer is formally decertified for misconduct then that individual would not be shielded from liability. Nothing in the bill would apply to any other public employee, nor to any law enforcement officer in any other scenario.

The legal doctrine of qualified immunity is a complex one and legal scholars do not all agree on its application, which is why I filed an amendment (#204) that creates a special legislative commission to study the origins and interpretation of qualified immunity. The precise language that was adopted can be found by clicking here. The commission is expected to submit a report of its study and recommendations by March 31, 2021.

Due Process

When the legislation was first released we heard concerns about protecting requisite due process safeguards. Through the amendment process, we worked out these concerns and made some changes.

One such change entitles an officer to a hearing within 15 days if there is a disciplinary action and makes sure his or her bargaining unit is also notified. Another adds a two-pronged approach for investigation, with an initial preponderance of evidence standard to start the investigation, but a higher “clear and convincing” evidence standard to de-certify. Another amendment preserves the ability of our District Attorneys to be included in the review process for officer involved incidents. Another provides a clearer and defined time frame for police chiefs in which to notify the Commission of a complaint. Finally, we adopted an amendment setting a process for vetting minor complaints. It provided some appropriate flexibility for the Commission to streamline the handling of minor complaints if they do not include the use of force or allegations of biased behavior.

Tear Gas

The bill restricts the use of chemical sprays, including tear gas, to cases where all other de-escalation tactics have been unsuccessful and such measures are necessary to prevent imminent harm. Here is the language from the bill:

A law enforcement officer shall not discharge tear gas or any other chemical weapon, discharge rubber pellets from a propulsion device or release a dog to control or influence a person’s behavior unless: (i) de-escalation tactics have been attempted and failed or are not feasible based on the totality of the circumstances; and (ii) the measures used are necessary to prevent imminent harm and the foreseeable harm inflicted by the tear gas or other chemical weapon, rubber pellets or dog is proportionate to the threat of imminent harm. If a law enforcement officer utilizes tear gas or any other chemical weapon, rubber pellets or a dog against a crowd, the law enforcement officer’s appointing agency shall file a report with the commission detailing all measures that were taken in advance of the event to reduce the probability of disorder and all de-escalation tactics and other measures that were taken at the time of the event to de-escalate tensions and avoid the necessity of using the tear gas or other chemical weapon, rubber pellets or dog. The commission shall review the report and may make any additional investigation. After such review and investigation the commission shall, if applicable, make a finding as to whether the pre-event and contemporaneous de-escalation tactics were adequate and whether the use of such tear gas or other chemical weapon, rubber pellets or dog was justified..

Section 29 of the bill defines “imminent harm” as serious physical injury or death that is likely to be caused by a person with the present ability, opportunity and apparent intent to immediately cause serious physical injury or death and is a risk that, based on the information available at the time, must be instantly confronted and addressed to prevent serious physical injury or death; provided, however, that imminent harm shall not include fear of future serious physical injury or death.

There was an amendment (which was defeated) that would have banned all chemical sprays in all circumstances, including the mace that civilians carry, the pepper spray which is a mild eye irritant, and OC spray. I voted against this amendment because felt that the restrictions on tear gas already included in the bill were sufficient.

While I see no use for tear gas to break up a peaceful protest, in the event of imminent harm, I found myself asking “what do we want the police to do?” Walk away, use a gun, send in dogs, resort to fire hoses? With appropriate training and education, I would want them to use force consummate with and proportionate to the risk.

One clear example comes to mind. In 2016, Jorge Zambrano killed an Auburn Police Officer and went on the run with weapons. He ended up barricaded in a home. Troopers used loudspeakers, a robot, a police dog, and chemical munitions to try to get Zambrano to exit the Oxford duplex peacefully, without success. They ended up having to go into the house where more shots were fired, a State Trooper was injured, and the suspect died. That is clearly a situation where the tactical use of tear gas was warranted. The face-to-face contact increases the risk of harm. And that is why I could not join in an outright ban on tear gas.

Other Pieces of the Bill

Here are some of the other provisions in the bill:

  • It limits the use of Facial Recognition technology and sets legal standards for its use.
  • It sets standards for officers to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force.
  • It bans chokeholds, defined as a lateral vascular neck restraint to limit breathing or blood flow with the result of bodily injury, unconsciousness or death.
  • It puts new limits on use of “No-Knock” warrants. It would require that they be issued by a judge upon supporting affidavit that such action is necessary to prevent endangering the life of the officer or others and a reasonable belief that there is no child in the home.
  • It creates several legislative commissions to further study issues of inequality and racism in Correctional Facilities, Parole Process and Probation Services.
  • The bill would create a new permanent Commission on the Status of African Americans to help policy makers develop solutions to discrimination and other issues facing the Black community. The commission would be a resource for policy makers and a “clearinghouse” of research and information on issues impacting the Black community in Massachusetts.
  • It sets up review of existing the civil service system with a Commission that will study and examine the civil service law, personnel administration rules, hiring procedures and bylaws for municipalities not subject to the civil service law, and the state police hiring practices.
  • It includes developing a curriculum for basic and in-service training for officers on dealing with individuals with autism and other intellectual or developmental disabilities along with the creation of a permanent commission on the status of persons with disabilities to look at these issues in a broader and holistic way.
  • Finally, the bill incorporates some changes to the governance of the State Police sought by Gov. Baker earlier in the year that would, among other changes, allow a governor to hire the colonel of the State Police from outside the department.

What Happens Now?

The Senate passed its bill last week (S.2800). Because there are significant differences between the two bills the branches will have to negotiate a consensus bill. This can happen with the appointment of a formal Conference Committee or via an amendment process between the House and Senate. Once this is done, it comes back to both chambers for enactment and then to Gov. Baker’s desk. He can then sign it, send it back with amendments, or veto it, in part, or in whole.

Conclusion

The bill will provide police departments with the tools they need to build trust and strong relationships with every community across the Commonwealth at a time when we need it most. The police will not be unduly constrained by this bill which is a measured and thoughtful approach to some complex issues. I truly believe policing will be stronger as a result.

People can certainly have differing views on various aspects of this legislation, and I know I have heard from many from both sides of the issue. Some say we didn’t do enough, and others contend we went too far. Nonetheless, I am confident that overall it makes important and necessary reforms that will strengthen our law enforcement system in Massachusetts and uphold the principles of justice, equity and accountability.

The police departments in the 10th Norfolk District are made up of, and led by, some great professionals. This bill will bring more departments in Massachusetts up to the standards set by Chiefs Lynch and Tingley and the fine officers in Franklin and Medway.

 

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Public meeting with the MBTA and Keolis

20151120_084614Representative Jeffrey Roy (D-Franklin) announced today that he will be hosting a public meeting with representatives from the MBTA and Keolis concerning commuter rail service in our area. The meeting will take place at the Franklin Town Council Chambers on Tuesday, December 17th at 7 p.m.

The entire commuter rail system’s on-time performance took a dive in late September and October and the Franklin Line was the worst performing line, with a 79.2 percent on-time performance. Many of the delays and cancellations on the Franklin Line were due to mechanical failures of the equipment. The meeting will be an opportunity to hear more about these issues and ways that they are being addressed.

“I have seen an increase in the number of complaints from constituents about the commuter rail since the beginning of the Foxboro Pilot Program,” said Rep. Roy. “This meeting will give the community a chance to share their concerns and provide feedback. I know Keolis took steps to increase service and reliability including the hiring a “route manager” and installation of more double tracks. With the increased complaints and poor performance, this is a god time to talk about what is working and where things need improvement.”

Representative Roy recently started the “Franklin Line Working Group,” consisting of Representatives and Senators whose communities are served by the Franklin Line. The group meets periodically with officials from the MBTA and Keolis to discuss ways to improve the system, including issues such as parking, increased fares and fees, and infrastructure.

Anyone with questions or concerns about commuter rail transportation should join us on December 17.

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Caucus Hosts 4th Annual Manufacturing Award Ceremony

Plansee USA Company in Franklin, receIMG_9379ived a Manufacturer of the Year Award at the Fourth Annual Manufacturing Award Ceremony at the State House. The company is a leading manufacturer of heat resistant metals. An international, private company with facilities in Europe and the United States, Plansee has seven U.S. production sites employing 1,100 employees.

In Franklin, Plansee occupies 62,000 square feet and specializes in machining and fabrication of Molybdenum and Tungsten products. Plansee holds more than 2,000 patents worldwide and serves clients from the development of prototypes through the manufacturing of products. Some important Plansee products include shielding for high temperature furnaces, components for x-ray tubes and CT scans and components used for the manufacture of LED chips and transistors. Plansee was nominated by State Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin).

Plansee exemplifies the greatness of manufacturing in Massachusetts, and was very deserving of the award. We recognized 78 manufacturers who have had an impact on our economy, created jobs, and are contributing to the renaissance of manufacturing in our state,” said Rep. Jeffrey N. Roy (D – Franklin), House Chair of the Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus. “Massachusetts is positioned to be number one in manufacturing in the United States, and these companies are all a large part of our success story. And I am delighted that we had the opportunity to honor them and showcase their innovative and revolutionary manufacturing capabilities and products.”

The Award Ceremony was the state’s Fourth Annual Manufacturing Award Ceremony sponsored by the Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus. Along with Plansee USA, 77 manufacturers were recognized for truly “making it” in Massachusetts. The ceremony honored the manufacturers and showcased their innovative and revolutionary manufacturing capabilities and products. The event included companies who make specialty and custom tools, decorative glass, baby products, marine robotics, gaskets, vacuum and cryogenic equipment, headwear apparel, custom scoliosis and spinal orthotic fabrication, medical devices, plant-based bioplastic products, and even chicken nuggets and fresh milled flour.img_9366.jpg

Representative Roy, Senator Eric P. Lesser (Co-Chair of the Caucus), Secretary of Housing & Economic Development Michael Kennealy, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Ms. Brooke Thomson, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at Associated Industries of Massachsuetts (AIM) offered remarks at the ceremony.
Formed in August 2014, the Manufacturing Caucus includes more than 60 legislators from around the Commonwealth. Lawmakers focus on training for manufacturing employees; encouraging innovation by helping start-ups access resources; and expanding apprenticeship opportunities in key manufacturing sectors.

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House Votes to Increase Transparency and Financial Reporting Requirements of Massachusetts Higher Education Institutions

The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted to pass legislation that will enable the state to more closely monitor the financial health of Massachusetts private colleges and universities and provide transparency and security to students and families in the Commonwealth.

Known as an Act to Support Improved Financial Stability in Higher Education, the legislation requires higher education institutions to make public and accessible financial reports and requires any institution facing financial risk of closure to develop contingency plans to ensure a process is in place to assist and inform its students and other stakeholders. The legislation also establishes financial penalties on institutions for non-compliance with reporting and planning. The bill requires ethics and fiduciary training for higher education trustees and board members.

“This legislation will increase the transparency of the financial health of our public institutions of higher education requiring increased oversight, reporting and accountability to protect students, families, and staff,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, (D-Winthrop). “I’m proud of the work Chair Jeffrey Roy has done to lead this effort with the support of Chair Aaron Michlewitz and Representative Kenneth Gordon.”

“Today the House took a step on improving accountability and the financial stability at our colleges and universities,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “By enacting this legislation both our institutes of higher education and our students will be better prepared for the worst case scenario.”

“This legislation supports and strengthens our higher education system and these vital engines of opportunity, and in so doing, protects the interests of students and families,” said Representative Jeffrey Roy, Chair of the Higher Education Committee (D-Franklin). “The financial screening and enhanced reporting provisions will help us keep Massachusetts at the top of the heap and avoid the significant negative consequences of college closures for students, staff, and host communities. The training provisions will strengthen the governance of these institutions and assist boards in exercising their fiduciary responsibilities.”

The four major provision of the bill address the following topics listed below.

  1. Financial reporting: Requires that all public higher education and independent institutions post on their websites a copy of the institution’s financial report and a summary written in terms understandable by the general public.
  2. Financial screening: Enables the Board of Higher Education (BHE) to monitor the financial health of independent institutions of higher education in Massachusetts.
    • Requires an independent institution to immediately notify BHE of any known financial liabilities or risks likely that may result in closure.
    • Requires BHE to annually conduct a financial screening of each institution and identify any institution it deems may be at risk of imminent closure. The BHE will keep confidential those assessments for independent institutions unless it is determined an institution is at risk of closure.
    • The BHE may accept the results of an annual financial screening conducted by an accrediting agency authorized by the U.S. Department of Education.
    • An institution determined to be at risk of imminent closure must prepare a contingency plan for closure, which includes a process to provide notice to a variety of stakeholders including, students, faculty, staff, pending applicants, and host communities.
    • The closure plan must also include arrangements for students to complete their program of study; a plan for the maintenance of student records; and,  provide funding for refunding any student deposits and for the cost of protecting and maintaining student records.
  3. Enforcement: Requires penalties for failure to comply with financial screening requirements, which include fines of up to $1,000 per day, suspension of any state funds, or the suspension or revocation of any degree granting authority.
  4. Board training: Requires comprehensive training programs for members of the boards of trustees of the state’s public higher education institutions on the proper governance, financial metrics, open meeting law and their legal and fiduciary responsibilities, at least once every four years.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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Funding Approved for SNETT Tunnel in Franklin

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Rep. Roy & Soter along with Franklin Town Councilor Melanie Hamlin meet with the rail trail group to discuss the tunnel funding.

Funding for the Prospect Street tunnel along the Southern New England Trunkline Trail (SNETT) has been approved this week and the project will go out to bid in the fall. A total of $1.3 million, over two fiscal years, will be funded from the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Trails Capitol Project.

“The Southern New England Trunkline Trail serves as an important corridor that offers exceptional outdoor recreational opportunities while also connecting communities together throughout the region,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “The Baker-Polito Administration is proud to provide essential funding for the rail trail’s Prospect Street tunnel project, which will be managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and appreciates the dedication and hard work of the Town of Franklin’s legislative delegation.”

Franklin’s legislative delegation has been actively working on this funding since 2014 in order to expand the connectivity of this trail and connect it to the rest of the SNETT. The SNETT, one of the longest trails in Massachusetts, travels 22 miles from Grove Street in Franklin all the way to the Douglas State Forest. The trail is popular to bicyclists, cross-country skiers, equestrians, and hikers and connects with other trail lines, reaching as far as Worcester, MA, Providence, RI and Palmer, MA.

“Well-maintained, accessible recreational trails have a significant positive impact on quality of life across the state,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This funding will make significant improvements to the connectivity and accessibility of SNETT, encouraging people to get outdoors, be active and connect with the region.”

“As an avid bike rider, this project has always been near and dear to my heart,” said Rep. Jeff Roy (D-Franklin). “I have been advocating for the SNETT because it not offers great recreational potential as a multi-use trail and brings communities together. It also gives life to abandoned railways and provides communities a way to offer open space to its residents. I am thrilled to see that the Governor and DCR are supporting this project and look forward to seeing more residents on the trail.”

An impediment at Prospect Street emphasizes the need for a tunnel. At that point one mile into the trail there is steep terrain causing users to leave the trail, trespass on private property, and traverse a steep incline to get to the other side. Many years ago, the old railroad tracks right-of-way ran under a bridge at Prospect Street. But the bridge was eliminated, and the railroad right-of-way was filled in, creating this major obstacle.

BeatonRoySNETT

Rep. Roy and former Secretary Matt Beaton ride the trail in 2016.

In 2013, then DCR Commissioner Jack Murray visited the site with members of the Legislature, engineers, Franklin town officials, rail trail committee members, and conservationists to discuss options. And in 2016, Matthew Beaton, the Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, rode the trail with Rep. Roy (D-Franklin), local officials, and committee members to see firsthand whether a tunnel fit in with the Governor’s priorities.

Rep. Mike Soter (D-Bellingham) stated, “I’m thrilled to see this project finally move towards reality. This has been in the works for years now and I cannot express enough how happy I am to see this project through as the State Representative of the 8th Worcester District. The Southern New England Trunkline Trail is an outstanding project that promotes environmental stewardship and healthy living for the residents of Bellingham and the surrounding communities.”

Senator Becca Rausch (D- Needham) said, “One of the best parts of our pocket of the Commonwealth is its natural beauty. This project not only improves lives in our area by fixing a problem spot for accessibility, but also serves as a draw to others to come visit our region. I’m so proud to support the tremendous work of my colleagues at the state and local levels who have brought this trail to reality.”

“I want to thank our state legislative delegation and the Franklin-Bellingham Rail Trail Committee for all of their tireless work to get these resources to provide better access to the SNETT trail,” said Franklin Town Administrator Jamie Hellen. “On behalf of our entire staff and the Franklin DPW, we have been honored to work on this exciting project. There is no question this is a very big deal and we are committed to continuing to work on expansion of the SNETT in the future.”

“The Franklin & Bellingham Rail Trail Committee (FBRTC) is proud to be the community advocate for the SNETT and the funding of the Prospect Street tunnel project,” said Marc Kaplan, FBRTC president. “The tunnel project solves a major impasse on the SNETT and creates a seamless connection between the towns of Franklin and Bellingham. The completed project helps realize our mission of making a universally accessible trail for all ages and abilities and will improve the quality of life for residents. We would like to thank Representatives Roy and Soter and Senators Spilka and Rausch, as well as Franklin and Bellingham Town administrators for their leadership to secure funding for this important project, and the DCR for their tireless work and direct assistance in developing the SNETT rail trail.”

The project will go out to bid in November 2019 and the project should be complete by the summer of 2020.

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Mobtown Massacre book talk

Reps Cutler and RoyLong before the era of “fake news” or Twitter bombs, the freedom of the press often had to be defended with pens and pistols.

In his book Mobtown Massacre: Alexander Hanson and the Baltimore Newspaper War of 1812, author and State Representative Josh Cutler shares the story of how one Massachusetts town came to be named for a fiery Federalist newspaper editor from Maryland whose anti-war writings provoked a bloodthirsty mob, a midnight jailbreak and a brutal massacre that stunned the nation in 1812. This fateful but little-known episode in American history helped shape the course of a war and the nation’s promise of a free press. And it all started with a headline.

On Sunday, September 15, 2019 Rep. Cutler will join Rep. Jeffrey Roy (D-Franklin) at the Franklin Historical Museum to talk about the book and this fascinating period in American history.

“I am honored to bring Rep. Cutler to Franklin to shine light on a little-known episode in American history that helped shape the course of war and the free press,” noted Rep. Roy. “His book is a gripping story of the press under attack, a fiery young editor who put his principles above popularity, and a challenge to populist thought that brings history to life. The book also foreshadows the toxic political arena in America today, but stands as a shining example of political courage.”

Rep. Cutler is an attorney and serves in the Massachusetts House with Rep. Roy. Cutler represents the Sixth Plymouth District of Massachusetts, which includes the town of Hanson. Cutler is a graduate of Skidmore College, Suffolk Law and the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He is also the author of “When the Press Really Was Under Attack: Alexander Hanson and the 1812 1Mobtown’ Massacre,” published by the New England Journal of History in the Spring 2018.

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Resources on mosquitos and EEE

EEE Community Risk MapMuch has been written and said about mosquitos and EEE over the past few weeks and our office has been staying on top of the issue with regular updates from the Department of Public Health (DPH). Mosquito control activities are continuing across the state to reduce public health risk from EEE, including local coordination regarding enhanced ground and truck spraying and ongoing monitoring of mosquito samples.

Ground spraying is planned and carried out by local communities and mosquito control projects and districts. In our area, we have the Norfolk County Mosquito Control District (NCMCD) which represents the interests of the member communities and their residents. They have a robust website with vast resources which you can access by clicking here. Any resident can call the NCMCD at (781) 762-3681, Monday through Friday during regular office hours (7:00 AM to 3:30 PM), to register a mosquito complaint. As an alternative, residents can request service online from the Online Service Request Form.

DPH maintains a EEE website which has many helpful resources, including the latest EEE risk map, aerial spraying information, and recommended cancellation times for outdoor activities in high risk areas.

It remains essential that individuals take personal precautions against mosquito bites. These steps include using EPA-approved bug spray, wearing long sleeves and pants outdoors to reduce exposed skin, and cancelling outdoor activities in the hours from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

Learn more about EEE in Massachusetts and how to protect yourself and your family. Visit DPH’s EEE page and follow @MassDPH on Twitter for the latest information. If you have any trouble accessing information or would like additional information, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 617-722-2030.

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Jennifer Knight-Levine Honored As 2019 Unsung Heroine

SAFE-JKL_IMG_7669Jennifer Knight-Levine was honored Tuesday as a member of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women’s 2019 class of Unsung Heroines. Jennifer was nominated by Representative Jeffrey Roy (D-Franklin) because of her years of dedicated service and for her role in founding the SAFE Coalition and helping people struggling with substance use disorder in Franklin and surrounding communities. Jennifer was honored with 130 other Unsung Heroines in a ceremony in the Great Hall at the State House in Boston.

In 2014, Jennifer had recently returned to Franklin, and was astonished to hear the heartbreaking stories of those struggling with heroin addiction in the community. She urged the creation of a warm, kind, and sustainable education platform for this matter. She envisioned a support system for people to come together to grieve and heal. From that, Jennifer went on to become one of the founders of the SAFE Coalition, a regional coalition of community partners who provide a pathway for support, education, treatment options and coping mechanisms for those affected by substance use disorder.

The Coalition has grown in the past 5 years, becoming one of the strongest in Massachusetts. The Coalition provides “Community Conversations” about substance use and prevention, Support Groups, a Support Telephone Line, Narcan training, a High School Peer-to-Peer Advisory Group, and a comprehensive Resource Manual for those suffering from the disease of addiction. Jennifer now serves as the SAFE President and through her efforts many lives have been saved and many people are on the pathway to recovery

“Jennifer’s great work with Franklin’s substance use disorder community provides peace of mind for countless families, a supportive space for people coping with addiction, and a place for education on substance use disorder,” said Representative Jeffrey Roy (D-Franklin). “Throughout her years of service, she has given her time, talent, spirit, and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of Franklin’s recovery and addiction community.”

“It was an absolute honor to stand with these 129 incredible woman from around the state and to be recognized as an Unsung Heroin for 2019 by the Massachusetts Commission on The Status of Women,” said Jennifer Knight-Levine. “I was moved during each of the nominees’ introductions and was humbled by the stories of resilience, dedication, and compassion each provide to their communities. I am so thankful that Rep. Roy nominated me for this award and so proud to have the opportunity to continue the community work that I know my grandmothers would be proud of.”

“The work of the 2019 Unsung Heroines has mattered long before this day and this award is an overdue recognition of their impact. Each and every one of the Honorees has and continues to sacrifice endless time and energy to their pursuits, and for that, we are humbled with admiration.” Chair Nina Kimball, Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.

The Unsung Heroines are women who do not always make the news, but make a difference. They are the women who use their time, talent and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others and make a difference in their neighborhoods, cities and towns. They are mentors, volunteers and innovators who do what needs to be done without expectation of recognition or gratitude. These women are the glue that keeps a community together and every community is better because of their contribution.

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Rep. Roy Named to Harm Reduction Commission

Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin) was named to the Harm Reduction Commission by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Rep. Denise Garlick, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. The commission was included as part of Chapter 208 of the Acts of 2018, legislation which addresses prevention and access to appropriate care and treatment of addiction. The commission will review and make recommendations regarding harm reduction opportunities to address substance use disorder.

“Representative Roy is an innovative and thoughtful legislator with demonstrated, in-depth knowledge of both healthcare and the law. We’re proud that he was named to this commission as he will bring value to its work,” said Speaker DeLeo. “He has been a steadfast supporter of the recovery community and has focused on combating the opioid crisis and improving our healthcare system to best meet the needs of patients. We appreciate his dedication and service to our Commonwealth.”

“I am excited to join the commission and continue working toward the goal of helping those with substance use disorders find a pathway to recovery,” said Representative Roy. “The findings from the commission’s report will be important in addressing this issue at the local and state level and will provide meaningful opportunities for our residents who are struggling with addiction.”

“The harm reduction commission will take a closer look at how to engage people at all stages of substance use disorder and encourage recovery,” said State Representative Denise C. Garlick (D-Needham), Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery.   “Representative Roy is a member of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery and has been a dedicated, compassionate advocate for his district and a leader with experience and insight through the enactment of the opioid bill. Representative Roy is committed to helping individuals who are suffering, families who are struggling and communities straining to meet the many needs of people of all ages dealing with the issues of addiction.  I believe his perspective will be invaluable to the people of his district and to the Commission’s work.”

The commission consists of 15 members, including the secretary of health and human services; the commissioner of public health; house and senate members of the joint committee on mental health, substance use and recovery or their designees; the mayor of the city of Boston or a designee; the mayor of the city of Cambridge or a designee; and representatives from the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, and the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. It also includes persons with a substance use disorder, a clinician with experience in mental health and substance use disorder, a person working in an established harm reduction program, an expert in relevant state and federal law and regulation, and a representative of local municipal boards of health. In its work, the Commission will consider:

  • the feasibility of operating harm reduction sites in which (A) a person with a substance use disorder may consume pre-obtained controlled substances, (B) medical assistance by health care professionals is made immediately available to a person with a substance use disorder as necessary to prevent fatal overdose, and (C) counseling, referrals to treatment and other appropriate services are available on a voluntary basis;
  • the potential public health and public safety benefits and risks of harm reduction sites;
  • the potential federal, state and local legal issues involved with establishing harm reduction sites;
  • appropriate guidance that would be necessary and required for professional licensure boards and any necessary changes to the regulations of such boards;
  • existing harm reduction efforts in the commonwealth and whether there is potential for collaboration with existing public health harm reduction organizations;
  • opportunities to maximize public health benefits, including educating persons utilizing the sites of the risks of contracting HIV and viral hepatitis and on proper disposal of hypodermic needles and syringes;
  • ways to support persons utilizing the sites who express an interest in seeking substance use disorder treatment, including providing information on evidence-based treatment options and direct referral to treatment providers;
  • other harm reduction opportunities, including but not limited to, broadening the availability of narcotic testing products, including fentanyl test strips;
  • alternatives and recommendations to broaden the availability of naloxone without prescription; and
  • other matters deemed appropriate by the commission.

The Commission will also review the experiences and results of other states and countries that have established supervised drug consumption sites and other harm reduction strategies and report on the impact of those harm reduction sites and strategies.

The Commission’s first meeting is scheduled for October 24, 2018 and its findings and recommendations are due to the legislature by February 1st, 2019.

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Massachusetts Cultural Council Conducts Site Visit For Proposed Franklin Cultural District

CulturalDistrict_2018_2The Town of Franklin hosted the Massachusetts Cultural Council for a site visit of the proposed Franklin Cultural District on September 20, 2018, the last step in the process to establishing an official, State-designated Cultural District in Franklin.

The Franklin Cultural District (FCD) will be a demarcated region within the town that encompasses the cultural facilities, activities, and assets that lie in a compact, walkable area. Franklin’s vibrant cultural atmosphere is already home to the nation’s first public library, the Franklin Historical Museum, Dean College School of the Arts, over 25 other performing, visual arts and dance studios and associations, and a variety of restaurants and cafes. Establishment of the FCD will likely attract additional arts and cultural organizations in the future, driving economic development.

Cultural District status will make the FCD eligible for a variety of state grant programs, state economic development opportunities and monies, strategic planning and historic preservation assistance, and marketing through the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.

This effort has been years in the planning, beginning with the Franklin Cultural District Steering Committee, who were tasked with gauging interest in the project and starting the organizational efforts necessary to begin the application process. The Steering Committee met with potential partners, the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), and Town of Franklin administrators to determine the needs, geographic area and types of businesses to be included, and the roles and responsibilities of the District itself. A preliminary site visit with the MCC and the Town resulted in a decision to move forward with the formal cultural district application.

CulturalDistrict_2018_3On June 28, 2017, the Franklin Town Council passed Resolution 17-45, which endorsed the FCD’s cultural district goals, namely to “attract artists and cultural enterprises; encourage business and job development; establish the district as a tourist destination; preserve and reuse historic buildings; enhance property values; and foster local cultural development.” The FCD will be managed by a Town-appointed Franklin Cultural District Committee, made up of seven Franklin residents, established in November 2017.

The FCD Committee filed a formal application for Cultural District status with the State in June of this year. After the application was reviewed, the MCC scheduled a final, more detailed, site visit, the last step in the process. The site visit, held on September 20, began with a meeting between Anita Walker, Executive Director of the MCC, and the complete MCC Communities staff, Franklin Town administrators, and members of the FCD Committee to discuss the District’s potential impact on arts and economic development in the area. Then followed a walking tour of key District partners’ facilities, led by MA State Rep. Roy.

“It is inspiring to see that the idea for a Cultural District has blossomed, and know that this tour will be the capstone presentation for the State approval process,” said Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin). “Arts and culture are essential, as they help us better understand and interpret the world around us, they improve our ability to think critically and act creatively, and they offer the opportunity to see and communicate better. Having designated space for cultural enrichment will also be an economic boost for our community and spread the message that Franklin is a place where culture is thriving. I applaud the committee for its hard work over the past five years, and thank them for their commitment and dedication to the District.”

The walking tour began at the Franklin Public Library, and included stops at the Franklin Historical Museum, Franklin Downtown Partnership offices, The Black Box and Franklin School for the Performing Arts, Franklin Senior Center, Franklin High School, Teddy Gallagher’s, Emma’s Quilt Cupboard, The Little Shop of Olive Oils, and Dean College.

Says Dr. Paula Rooney, President of Dean, “Dean College is proud of our long history in the town of Franklin and excited about the Franklin Cultural District. Dean’s impact is significant in Franklin from both an educational and cultural perspective, and our geographic location serves as a meaningful footprint within the district. We look forward to doing whatever we can to make this endeavor a continued success.”The site visit ended with a Q and A session and meeting of many of the FCD partners with the State MCC representatives. Now that the MCC has reviewed the application and conducted a site visit, the State can render a verdict on the application. A decision should be announced early in 2019.

“The site visit went very well,” says FCD Committee Chair Philip Regan, “We are pleased by the State’s response to our application, and are excited by what the advent of a Cultural District could do for the Town of Franklin.”

To learn more about the Franklin Cultural District, their partners, and upcoming activities and events, visit their website at www.franklinculturaldistrict.org, or follow them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/FranklinCultureMA), Twitter (@FranklinCulture), and Instagram (@franklinculture).

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