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Advocate to Advance Health Equity

The Massachusetts Legislature just began its new 2-year session so now is the time to ask our state senators and representatives to co-sponsor specific bills that will advance health equity. We have until Feb 3 to do this, but the sooner the better.
 
We are asking you to do three things:
A. Contact YOUR state rep and senator and ask them both to co-sponsor these bills.
 
B. Ask your network/board/steering committee/colleagues to do the same. (feel free to forward this email as is, or tailor this email in a way that works for you and your allies!)
 
C. Let the MA Public Health Association (MPHA) know what action you took so MPHA staff can follow up with an in-person visit to your electeds’ State House Offices. (It’s an effective recipe!) Contact Andrea Freeman, afreeman@mapublichealth.org 857-263-7072 x103)
 
Here are important priorities for healthier, more equitable communities—you can ask your Rep/Senator to co-sponsor all in the same call/email.
 
1. An Act to Promote Public Health through the Prevention & Wellness Trust Fund (PWTF) (SD1482/HD2638) by Senators Lewis, Chandler and Welch & Representatives Vega and Chan. PWTF is the first program of its kind in the nation and a national model for connecting clinical and community services to address costly health conditions, including pediatric asthma, falls among older adults, hypertension, and tobacco use. PWTF has increased access to preventive services for nearly 1 million people across every region of the Commonwealth and could have an ever greater impact in the future. First established in 2012, funding for PWTF will sunset in June 2017 without action from the Legislature. 
 
2. An Act Improving Public Health through a Common Application for Core Food, Health and Safety-Net Programs (SD247/HD655), by Sen. DiDomenico & Rep. Livingstone. The SNAP Gap represents the 680,000 people who are receiving MassHealth and likely eligible for SNAP (food assistance), but aren’t receiving benefits. Each safety-net program has a separate application process, duplicating efforts and creating more work for the state and clients. This bill creates a common application portal to let households apply for multiple programs at the same time, helping more residents meet their basic needs, lowering health care costs, and generating $1.5 billion in economic stimulus to the local economy. 
 
3. Great Neighborhoods Campaign (SD1609 & HD2587), by Sen. Chandler and Reps. Kulik & Peake. Massachusetts faces a housing crisis that threatens the stability and health of families and seniors. These bills will address this problem by providing more housing choices so that people can stay in their communities; encouraging mixed-used development and healthy, walkable places; and discouraging sprawl and preserving open space.
 
1.2 million MA families risk losing their jobs or going without pay if they take time off work to take care of a family emergency or care for a newborn. This bill will make employees eligible for job-protected paid leave to address serious family medical issues. This change would especially benefit low-wage, near poor, Black, and Latino workers.
 
5. An Act to Improve the Commonwealth’s Economy with a Strong Minimum Wage (SD984/HD2719), by Sen. Donnelly & Rep. Donahue. This bill will raise the MA minimum wage to $15/hr over 4 years, increasing the wages of 947,000 workers, including nursing assistants, childcare providers and paramedics. According to a recent analysis, increasing the earnings of low wage workers would lead to significant drops in food insecurity, diabetes, and hypertension.
 
6.  An Act Relative to Substance Use Disorder Diversion and Treatment (HD2607), by Rep. Malia. This bill creates a new pathway to treatment for court-involved individuals struggling with substance use disorders; requires insurance companies to cover medically-necessary treatment and recovery services; and expands legal protections for people who seek help for someone at risk of overdose. 
 
FIVE EASY STEPS FOR CONTACTING YOUR LEGISLATORS
 
A. Find your legislators 
  • Search here by city/town for their phone numbers 
  • If you already know that your Rep or Senator supports a given program, you still need to ask them to co-sponsor the bill…and thank them for their support! (They have +5,000 bills to consider co-sponsoring—things easily get lost in the shuffle if there aren’t requests from constituents)
B. Call your State Rep AND Senator (Call their Boston offices unless you have a close connection with a district staffer) 
  • Aides are awesome! You’re unlikely to reach the legislator directly but the legislative aides will diligently pass along your messages. Be sure to get their names & emails.
  • It’ll be quick. Legislative staff will be receiving many calls between now and Feb 3 about co-sponsoring bills. They will be prepared to take down your name and bill requests. They are unlikely to have questions at this time.  But if they do, you can give them the links to the fact sheets (above) for more information. Let MPHA know if you get questions you can’t answer.
  • If in doubt about when and where you can lobby, make the call/email from your own phone/email address on your own time. 
 
C. Be friendly & follow up with an email
  • Be brief and appreciative of the aide’s time; don’t expect an answer right away.
  • Do get the aide’s name and email.
  • After you call, send a follow up by email with a quick thank you note, provide links to the fact sheets, and reiterate your request. Ask the aides to please let you know the decision once they have briefed their bosses.
 
D. Engage your partners
  • Please forward this information to your partners and allies and ask them to make these two calls.  More voices will amplify the message.
  • Let MPHA know what happened
  • Please let Andrea Freeman at MPHA know who you contacted and if they gave you any indication of support (afreeman@mapublichealth.org x857-263-7072 x103) MPHA will track co-sponsors as they come in and can keep you informed of who has signed on and who may need a reminder call or email.
 
If you have any questions about the bill or the legislative process generally, do not hesitate to contact me.
 
Thank you for taking action for health equity!  
 
Best, Andrea
 
Andrea Freeman
Field Director
Massachusetts Public Health Association
14 Beacon St #706, Boston, MA 02108
(o) 857-263-7072 x103 | (c) 978-895-0960