My time in the State Senate
I have accomplished the following
Posted on December 6, 2016
Author Jay Atkinson was recently honored at the Massachusetts State House, in a celebration hosted by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Atkinson, who resides in Methuen, was named an Honors Awardee in Nonfiction by the organization.
Atkinson, whose latest book is Massacre on the Merrimack, has composed several novels, nonfiction books and a story collection. His book Ice Time was a Publisher’s Weekly notable book of the year in 2001 and another book, Legends of Winter Hill, made the Boston Globe bestseller list in 2005. His works have appeared in the New York Times, Men’s Health and other publications. A former college athlete, Atkinson is also head coach of the Methuen Fun Hockey League, a low-cost ice hockey program for children that also promotes youth literacy. He currently teaches journalism at Boston University.
Presenting Atkinson with his award at the State House was State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen).
Posted on October 26, 2016
The Lawrence-based Solectria Renewables was recognized at the Massachusetts State House as part of the 1st Annual Manufacturing Month Award Ceremony, honoring manufacturers across the Commonwealth.
The leading U.S.-based photovoltaic (PV) inverter manufacturer, Solectria is known for developing and manufacturing string combiners and web-based monitoring components for commercial and residential projects. The company is also renowned for its automated production and advanced monitoring systems.
Solectria was nominated for this honor by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), a member of the legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus.
Posted on July 18, 2016
Veterans legislation recently signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker includes provisions, sponsored by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), to exempt active duty military from the Commonwealth’s motor vehicle excise tax and find ways to improve transition services for returning vets.
Under House Bill 4285, “The HOME Act,” active duty members of the military will now be exempt from the Commonwealth’s motor vehicle excise tax while serving. The excise tax will not apply to Massachusetts residents in active and full-time military service who have been deployed or stationed outside of the Commonwealth for a period of at least 180 days.
This measure was inspired by a conversation DiZoglio had last year with a Methuen constituent, Diane Amato. Last August, Amato and her daughter Alfina, as well as Methuen City Councilor Thomas Ciulla, contacted DiZoglio regarding an issue the Amatos were facing with excise taxes. Despite the fact that Alfina was serving overseas in Afghanistan and unable to use a vehicle stateside, she was being charged with a motor vehicle excise tax.
“It can take years to pass a piece of legislation,” said DiZoglio. “I am very grateful to have been able to earn the support on the bills that I filed that were recently passed unanimously by both Democrats and Republicans. I am thankful to local advocates such as Methuen City Councilor Tom Ciulla and Diane Amato of Methuen for their passion and dedication to working together with my colleagues and I to see this through to the end.”
The legislation also creates a commission to look into ways to improve transition services for returning veterans and reduce the rate of suicide and effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. The commission will investigate and study veterans’ reintegration into civilian life and issues related to isolation and suicide.
This measure was earlier endorsed by the Gold Star Wives of America, VFW Post 8772 and Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNOC), located in Haverhill.
According to Pentagon data, war was the leading cause of death in the military nearly every year between 2004 and 2011 until suicide became the top cause of troop deaths in 2012 and 2013. A recent national study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found deployed veterans have a 41 percent higher suicide risk compared to the general U.S. population, while non-deployed veterans have a 61 percent high suicide risk. Among veterans who died serving during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2001-2007, roughly a fifth were suicides.
“Currently, the rate of suicide among our returning veterans is higher than that of those killed in the line of duty,” said DiZoglio. “This is simply unacceptable. I filed this legislation to ensure additional mental health services would be provided to the men and women who risk their lives to protect us. This bill will assist in their transition back into our communities. I am grateful to Governor Baker for signing this legislation as an example of his commitment to veterans in the Commonwealth.”
Posted on July 14, 2016
The Lawrence RMV branch, once proposed to be moved to a new location in Downtown Lawrence, will remain in its current location on Route 114 in South Lawrence.
A lease has not only been signed to keep the RMV branch in South Lawrence, but also expand and update the location, going from 10,500 to 13,330 square feet and incorporating new physical and technological enhancements. Improvements are expected to be finished by early next year.
The news comes on the heels of years of contentious debate on whether to move the RMV to a new location in Downtown Lawrence. In July 2014, state and local officials, without input from the public or state legislators, announced a plan to relocate the branch from its current location on Route 114 to Downtown Lawrence.
Leading the opposition to the move was State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), who represents South Lawrence in the legislature and met with the then-RMV Registrar to advocate for staying in its current location. Five thousand Merrimack Valley residents had signed a petition to keep the Registry in South Lawrence.
“During my time as State Representative, countless residents from across my district have contacted me to express their concerns about the proposed move of the Lawrence RMV,” said DiZoglio. “It was my responsibility to speak up on behalf of my constituents who did not have a seat at the table in the closed-doors discussions on the proposal.”
Opponents had expressed concerns about the economic impact on businesses along Route 114 that would result from a relocation of the RMV branch, as well as regarding the perceived lack of convenience and parking at a new Downtown Lawrence location. DiZoglio requested a public hearing be held on the proposed relocation but this was denied by the RMV, citing lack of precedence for holding such a forum.
“I am thrilled that the RMV will remain in its current location, where it has been so critical to the economic vitality of nearby businesses,” said DiZoglio. “This location is easily accessible for residents across the Merrimack Valley and affords substantial parking. I look forward to seeing firsthand the improvements at the branch, which will help to make visiting the Lawrence RMV a speedier and more pleasant experience for customers. This has been a long, uphill battle. Since I have been working on the issue, there have been three different Registrars of Motor Vehicles. I am very thankful to the current Registrar and the Baker administration for not only hearing the concerns of the people I represent on this issue but also acting on it.”
Posted on June 24, 2016
State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted the North Andover Senior Center for a visit at the Massachusetts State House.
Following brunch and a historical tour of the building, DiZoglio brought the seniors into the House Chamber where they sat in the seats of legislators as the Representative discussed the legislative process.
“I have strived during my time as State Representative for the 14th Essex District to host events like these that bring our amazing seniors together,” said DiZoglio. “It is so important that we keep our older adults independent, socially engaged and active and I look forward to sponsoring many more gatherings over the months and years to come.”
Posted on May 25, 2016
The Massachusetts House of Representatives has included in its Fiscal Year 2017 Budget an amendment, sponsored by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), to provide $50,000 for the Pegasus House residential treatment facility in Lawrence.
The facility, operated by The Psychological Center, offers substance abuse treatment for young women between ages 18 and 25. Established in 1985, the facility offers an environment that reinforces a drug and alcohol-free lifestyle. Clients are able to pursue their GED or take college classes at local community colleagues and receive assistance in applying for and maintain a job. The average length of stay is four to six months.
The Psychological Center’s mission is to help individuals across the Merrimack Valley who are experiencing mental health issues, substance or alcohol abuse, addiction or homelessness.
“These funds will help provide critical resources to fight addiction in a time of great need,” said Carina Pappalardo, CEO of The Psychological Center. “In the past 30 days, we have had four graduations at Pegasus House. That is a very successful number. We contribute this to our strong, dedicated staff, effective program model and the ladies’ commitment to maintain a drug and alcohol free lifestyle. Beyond the six months of intensive treatment, the program is reconnecting families, creating happy memories for the ladies and saving lives. There is no better feeling. We are truly grateful for the support of Representative DiZoglio and her recognition of the need for continued services at The Psychological Center. Through education, awareness and treatment at our programs, we will continue to make a visible difference.”
“I found myself here,” said Clara, a current resident of Pegasus House. “This place gives me hope that other places didn’t. The staff here really care”
“This recovery home truly gives a hand up by educating, motivating and assisting recovering young women who require around-the-clock care,” said DiZoglio. “These young women have made a decision to live separate from their friends and family in a facility where they are able to focus solely on treatment and recovery from addiction. This funding will assist in providing the resources they need to succeed.”
On Saturday, August 13, from 8am to noon, The Psychological Center will host the Strike Out Stigma Softball Tournament to raise awareness about addiction, homelessness and mental health disorders. The tournament, in which police and fire departments from local cities and towns will compete, will be held at Burnham Road in Methuen.
Posted on May 17, 2016
The Merrimack Valley Prevention and Substance Abuse Project (MVPASAP) was formed in 2013 to bring members of the community together, including experts on drug addiction issues and elected officials, to address substance abuse prevention, education, treatment and recovery.
MVPASAP, which now regularly holds public meetings in Methuen, was launched in response to the heroin epidemic that has ravaged the Merrimack Valley, with record-high numbers of police logs and obituaries noting fatal overdoses of the drug.
Now, the Massachusetts House of Representatives has included in its Fiscal Year 2017 Budget an amendment, sponsored by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), for $20,000 in funding toward MVPASAP for resources, programs and community outreach.
“I can’t stress just how much we appreciate the work Representative DiZoglio has done for MVPASAP,” said Methuen resident Phil Lahey, co-founder of MVPASAP. “We have great volunteers who have been doing quite a bit with little to no funding and with these funds, we will be able to give these dedicated people a chance to start putting their ideas into practice, when it comes to awareness, prevention and education.”
“This funding is an absolutely beautiful thing,” said Colleen Lahey, daughter of Phil and a former heroin addict. “Heroin addiction is the most powerful and dangerous disease I have ever dealt with and any funding to go toward addressing this problem is wonderful. Thank you Representative DiZoglio for making it happen.”
“This is a community-wide issue and needs a community-wide solution,” said Anne Whalen, Methuen YMCA Executive Director and MVPASAP Youth Committee Chair. “This funding will enable MVPASAP to provide more awareness and education on substance abuse prevention, and have a greater impact in the Merrimack Valley.”
“We at MVPASAP are working hard to bring awareness and education to people across the Merrimack Valley,” said Al Ruthazer, board member of MVPASAP. “We are also trying to provide resources and information for those with substance abuse challenges and family members. Financial help is so appreciated.”
“Addressing addiction in our communities has been an overriding focus of mine during my time as State Representative,” said DiZoglio, who serves on the legislature’s Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. “I have had countless conversations with residents in my district and across the Merrimack Valley who have either struggled with substance abuse themselves or have friends or family who have battled addiction. I am so grateful to Phil Lahey for helping to launch this amazing group, as well as House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill) for his support and leadership in helping to fight for these funds.”
Posted on May 2, 2016
The Massachusetts House of Representatives has included in its Fiscal Year 2017 Budget an amendment, sponsored by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), for $200,000 in funds to assist the Career Resources Corporation (CRC) in its initiative to help disabled veterans who are seeking employment opportunities.
CRC, which is based in Haverhill, is a non-profit that serves communities across the Merrimack Valley. For 40 years, it has worked to empower individuals with disabilities and other barriers to be successful and self-sufficient.
The organization’s partnership with Valley Works Career Center, the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center and the City of Haverhill Veterans’ Services has provided area veterans with comprehensive support to seek and maintain employment. CRC has also collaborated with the Methuen Home Depot and other local private businesses to identity disabled area veterans in need of employment and hire them for Home Depot jobs.
“Representative DiZoglio has been a steadfast supporter of the veteran’s employment program, successfully advocating for funding for the past three years,” said Brad Howell, CEO of CRC. “Her commitment goes beyond funding as she has facilitated connections with local business that led to veterans and other people with disabilities becoming employed.”
“I felt lost after leaving the military,” said Anthony Reinoso, a veteran who has participated in the CRC program. “Thankfully I was introduced to Career Resources’ Employment Program for Veterans. They helped me explore my options. With their help, I now work two jobs and I could not be happier. I feel as though I am incorporating my military skills into my civilian life and I am serving my country through helping those in need. I have a sense of purpose again, I feel as though I am a solider again. I know how much the program at CRC has positively impacted my life.”
“We must continue to create public-private partnerships, like the ones CRC has successfully made with the local business community in assisting our local disabled veterans,” said DiZoglio. “I have been working together with CRC over the past few years, as they have partnered with local private businesses such as the Home Depot in Methuen, the Whittier Rehabilitation Hospital in Haverhill and the Greater Lowell Food Bank. Thank you to House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill) and the rest of the local Merrimack Valley delegation for supporting this important amendment, which will help hundreds of disabled veterans.”
Posted on April 21, 2016
State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently welcomed advocates from the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth to the State House for the latest meeting of the state legislature’s Parkinson’s Disease Caucus.
The caucus provides legislators an opportunity to learn more about Parkinson’s and consider legislative steps to address the neurological disease, which affects between 500,000 and 1.5 million Americans and is the 14th leading cause of death in the United States. It is estimated that 60,000 people are diagnosed each year in the U.S. with Parkinson’s and its prevalence is expected to more than double by the year 2040. The exact cause of the disease, which is chronic and progressive, with no treatment to slow or halt its progression, remains unknown.
Joining the Representative for the caucus meeting were the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Rock Steady Boxing, the National Parkinson Foundation and the Massachusetts chapters of the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN) and American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA).
During the caucus, DiZoglio presented a resolution, co-sponsored by 47 other legislators from across the Commonwealth, proclaiming the month of April as Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month in Massachusetts.
DiZoglio officially created and launched the Parkinson’s Disease Caucus last November.
“Increased research, education and community support services are needed to find more effective treatments and to provide access to quality care to those living with Parkinson’s Disease today,” said DiZoglio. “I am honored to serve as chair of this caucus and committed to continue raising awareness about the disease with citizens from the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth. Thank you to North Andover’s Charles Brown, Massachusetts state director of the Parkinson’s Action Network, for his inspirational comments at this month’s meeting and for helping to organize the event.”
Posted on April 13, 2016
Under new legislation filed by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), a task force would be created in Massachusetts to improve public awareness about pulmonary hypertension and improve health outcomes for those diagnosed with the disease.
High blood pressure in the lungs is called pulmonary hypertension or PH. It is a chronic and life-threatening disease that can lead to heart failure if left untreated. The condition gets worse over time and can affect people of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds. In the United States, an estimated 500 to 1,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
DiZoglio’s legislation, House Bill 4121, creates a task force under the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services to develop a comprehensive, strategic plan to improve health outcomes for individuals with a diagnosis of PH, including recommendations to advance research, improve the transplantation criteria and process concerning lung and heart-lung transplants for individuals with a diagnosis and improve public awareness and recognition.
Testifying in favor of the legislation on April 12, before the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health, was Methuen resident Ernesto Bencosme who, at the age of 25, was diagnosed with PH.
Bencosme had experienced an episode of syncope, a moment when oxygen does not reach the brain at the normal rate. He was then taken to a local hospital, later transferred to Brigham and Women’s and there diagnosed with PH.
“Living with PH stopped me from doing things normal young adults love to do, things like playing sports, going to amusement parks and hiking,” said Bencosme. “There are days when walking up ten steps have led to shortness of breath, loss of hearing and even eye sight. Getting to the top of a ten-step staircase made me feel like Rocky Balboa climbing the stairs at Philadelphia’s Museum of Arts.”
Bencosme said he has always lived a healthy lifestyle and been athletic, but something would consistently hold him back. Doctors would tell him he simply had bad asthma. In reality, however, his heart was overcompensating his entire life and increasing in size. None of his physicians had the education or understanding of PH to provide him with an early diagnosis.
“The intent of creating a task force on this matter through legislation is so that we are able to develop and annually update a summary of the advances made in research on and treatment and diagnosis of PH along with advances made in access to care for individuals with a diagnosis,” said DiZoglio. “We want to be able to monitor PH research, services, and support activities across the Commonwealth, including coordination of the Commonwealth’s activities and programs with respect to the disease.”
“I am hopeful, because I believe that across the Commonwealth, there will be advances made in pulmonary hypertension research and that we will see improvements in public awareness,” said Kara Cann, Ernesto’s fiancée. “House Bill 4121 brings so many families like ours hope; hope that there will be advanced research and awareness on pulmonary hypertension in order to find a cure and save lives, including my fiancée’s.”
“I have been told that medical students are taught ‘When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras’,” said Frank A. Cann, Kara’s father and owner of the Coffee Cann Cafe. “They are taught to focus on likely possibilities when making a diagnosis. But sometimes, physicians need to look for a zebra. That zebra can be pulmonary hypertension. The passage of this bill will help raise awareness and educate pediatricians, primary care physicians, doctors in hospitals and lung specialists that shortness of breath and dizziness, those hoof beats the doctor is hearing, do not always mean horses or asthma, it could mean a zebra or pulmonary hypertension.”
“We will not let this disease win or hold our family back,” said Justin Cann, Kara’s brother. “We are here to stand for those who have been diagnosed and in memory of those who have fallen victim to this disease. PH is rare and affects a small amount of people, but their lives are as important as anyone else’s.”
DiZoglio decided to file House Bill 4121 after hearing from the Cann family regarding Bencosme’s diagnosis with PH.
“This bill will see to it that the medical community and general public are educated about this wicked disease so that PH patients are diagnosed early, so that effective treatments are initiated and sustained, and so that PH patients can live longer ad better lives,” said Stephen L. White, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association.
“House Bill 4121 appears to us to be a strong step forward in addressing the research, diagnosis and awareness needs of the PH community,” said Katherine Kroner, Senior Director of Advocacy and Awareness with the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. “House Bill 4121 will save lives by addressing these issues.”
Posted on March 29, 2016
State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) has been named recipient of the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA)’s 2016 Legislative Advocacy Award.
The MNA’s Legislative Advocacy Award is presented to a state legislator in Massachusetts who has worked alongside the organization in its efforts to improve availability of health care services, promote the health and safety of nurses and foster high standards of nursing practice, education and research.
During the current legislative session, DiZoglio served as co-sponsor for legislation to set a new limit on the number of patients assigned to a nurse at one time, designed to improve public safety and address the increased risk of complications, medical errors and readmissions that can result from nurses having too many patients.
“I am truly honored and humbled to accept the MNA’s 2016 Legislative Advocacy Award,” said DiZoglio. “As the daughter of a nurse, I have seen firsthand the challenges these men and women face on a day-to-day basis as they work to care for those battling cancer, terminal illness, mental illness, injuries and more. It is imperative that their voices continue to be heard loud and clear on Beacon Hill. They are a truly invaluable organization and I am firmly committed to working alongside the MNA over the years to come.”
Founded in 1903, the MNA is today the largest professional association of registered nurses and health professionals in Massachusetts and third-largest in the nation, representing more than 23,000 members.
Posted on March 28, 2016
The state legislature’s Joint Committee on Housing has advanced legislation, filed by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), to create a task force to improve the safety of elderly and disabled persons living in public housing.
In January of last year, three North Andover seniors, Walter Hamilton, 78, George Kettinger, Jr., 79, and Francis Kort, 68, were murdered in their public housing complex at Foulds Terrace. In response to the tragedy, at the beginning of the legislative session, DiZoglio filed legislation, House Bill 1094, An Act establishing a task force on elderly and disabled persons residing in public housing.
The task force outlined in the legislation would advise the Secretaries of Housing and Economic Development and Health and Human Services on best practices to ensure the safety and welfare of the elderly and disabled in public housing, including investigating efforts to maximize overall facility and individual apartment safety and security.
DiZoglio’s bill received endorsements from the North Andover and Haverhill Housing Authorities, as well as Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, which presented testimony at the legislation’s public hearing held last summer before the committee.
“This legislation marks the first step in what I hope to be a forceful, comprehensive effort by citizens, not only in North Andover but across the Commonwealth, to protect our seniors and disabled persons residing in public housing,” said DiZoglio. “We can and must do better to protect the safety and welfare of this vulnerable population and I look forward to advocating over the days and weeks to come in further advancing this bill.”
“I am very pleased to see Representative DiZoglio’s hard working in sponsoring in crafting this bill move to an important next step,” said Rosanne DiStefano, Executive Director of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley. “The Representative took a thoughtful approach and spent countless hours in meeting with constituents. We all need to ensure that the sad and unfortunate incident that occurred in North Andover doesn’t happen again anywhere and this task force is the first step to get to this peace of mind.”
“Representative DiZoglio’s housing legislation is so vitally important to the health and welfare of all persons living in housing,” said Cathy Hoog, Executive Director of the North Andover Housing Authority. “If passed, this task force could advise on best practices and advocate for supportive services funding in the housing authority industry. Mixed populations in any close living environment is challenging. A difference can be made with supportive services that provide those in need with continued care and support to maintain the healthiest life possible.”
“This can be an easy issue to overlook when it’s not in the news anymore, but thanks to Rep. DiZoglio, our residents will be much safer and have the peace of mind that comes from feeling much safer in their homes,” said Joseph A. Hart, Executive Director, Haverhill Housing Authority.
Posted on March 2, 2016
State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and Governor Charlie Baker (R-Swampscott) visited North Andover’s Kittredge Elementary School on Wednesday, March 2 in honor of Read Across America Day.
Read Across America Day, sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA), promotes literacy across grades and celebrates the birthday of Dr. Seuss.
Last summer, DiZoglio hosted third grade students from Kittredge for a visit to the State House and provided the students with the opportunity to meet with Gov. Baker in his office. During their meet-and-greet, the Governor expressed interest in visiting Kittredge if the school again attained Level 1 status, which, for the fifth year in a row, Kittredge accomplished.
“The Kittredge School has graciously invited me to join them for Read Across America Day every year during my time as State Representative and it has been an absolute pleasure to interact with the kids and teachers each time,” said DiZoglio. “When they reached out to me about coordinating a visit alongside Governor Baker, I was happy to do so. As a member of the Education Committee, I have strongly advocated for increased funding for Chapter 70 and special education in the State Budget, which greatly impacts North Andover Public Schools and has actually helped to save the media centers from having to close. Many of us remember that in 2013, North Andover Public Schools nearly had to close down their school libraries for lack of funding. I hope the importance of adequately funding school districts in the region to ensure our youth continue to strongly grasp reading concepts and skills in their education was highlighted to the Governor during his visit.”
Posted on February 25, 2016
State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) will again this year host the St. Paddy’s Day luncheon at the North Andover Senior Center.
The event, to take place on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, will begin at noon and feature a traditional holiday meal of corn beef and cabbage, catered by Borelli’s Italian Deli in Methuen.
Tickets, to go on sale February 29 at the senior center, will be $7 each and limited to the first 60 North Andover seniors.
For more information, call the senior center at 978-688-9560.
Posted on February 18, 2016
Governor Charlie Baker (R-Swampscott) and State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) will visit North Andover’s Kittredge Elementary School on Wednesday, March 2 in honor of Read Across America Day.
Read Across America Day, sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA), promotes literacy across grades and celebrates the birthday of Dr. Seuss. In honor of the occasion, DiZoglio and Baker will read to Kittredge students at 9am and 10am respectively.
“Occasions like these are so important in working to ensure our youth strongly grasp reading concepts and skills in their education,” said DiZoglio. “I look forward to joining Governor Baker for what will undoubtedly be an amazing morning.”
Posted on January 19, 2016
Included in comprehensive House legislation to address opioid addiction in the Commonwealth were four amendments sponsored by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen).
The bill, which passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives with unanimous and bipartisan support, adopted amendments sponsored by DiZoglio pertaining to the advertising of opiates, cautionary statements on opiate medications, updating the Commonwealth’s Protective Custody Law and additional funding to address substance abuse in hard-hit communities.
Under the legislation, the Commonwealth’s Department of Public Health (DPH) will be directed to regulate the advertising of opiates, benzos and narcotics by medical practitioners in their offices.
“Physicians often display advertisements in their offices promoting opiate painkillers,” said DiZoglio. “These advertisements are provided by pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma, the OxyContin manufacturer which came under fire in recent years for misleading doctors and the public about their drug’s risk of addiction.”
DPH is also directed under another DiZoglio amendment to come up with updated cautionary statements for opioid medications, to be included in all opioid prescription packaging.
“The literature will cover the addictive properties of opiates, risk of dependency and addiction, risk of heroin addiction and abuse, misuses by adults and children, addiction support and treatment resources and the telephone helpline operated by the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services,” said DiZoglio.
The bill also includes a DiZoglio amendment updating the Commonwealth’s Protective Custody Law, which currently allows officers to take persons intoxicated with alcohol to the point of being incapacitated into custody for a period of no more than 12 hours to allow the individuals to regain sobriety. An officer brings the inebriated person home, to the hospital or to the police station until sobriety is met or the 12-hour period is reached.
“This amendment allows the definition of ‘incapacitated’ under the provisions of the law to be expanded to those high on controlled substances, including opiates,” said DiZoglio. “By doing so, more overdoses will be prevented and officers will have an important new tool as they continue to confront this heartbreaking opioid epidemic.”
“I would like to applaud Representative DiZoglio for championing this cause and helping to keep our communities safe,” said Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon. “This change in the Protective Custody Law will significantly aid first responders in their abilities to save lives and help those under the influence of opioids or other drugs.”
Also included in the legislation is an expansion of the Commonwealth’s Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI) grants.
“SSYI has proven an immensely effective tool in recent years in reducing youth violence across Massachusetts,” said DiZoglio. “Cities are provided funding through the program to implement intervention strategies in partnership with local organizations, training and education programs. Under this amendment, communities will now be able to use SSYI funding toward addressing local substance abuse issues.”
The House and Senate will now move into negotiations on a final bill to be agreed upon by both legislative chambers.
Posted on January 4, 2016
Included in legislation to be introduced before the Massachusetts House of Representatives to address the Commonwealth’s opioid epidemic are two proposals from State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), including limiting the prescription of opioids to children and expanding substance abuse education in Massachusetts public schools.
The legislation, which is expected to be considered by the House in January, would for the first time limit patients prescribed opioids to a seven-day supply and persons admitted to the emergency room due to an apparent drug overdose would be required to undergo a substance abuse evaluation within 24 hours.
Under the bill, children are only allowed a seven-day opioid prescription, whether for the first time or not, unless there are extreme circumstances such as cancer or terminal illness.
The inclusion of this measure comes on the heels of legislation filed by DiZoglio, House Bill 3811, to regulate the prescription of the opioid OxyContin to children. DiZoglio’s bill came in response to the FDA’s recent approval of the powerful painkiller, known in recent years for its frequent abuse, for children as young as 11.
“The legislation I filed earlier this year would have prohibited the prescribing of OxyContin to children,” said DiZoglio. “Unfortunately, such a ban would not pass through federal regulations. As a state, we are only able to do so much, as former Governor Deval Patrick found in his ordering of a ban on the opioid Zohydro in 2014, which was overturned by the U.S. District Court. I would like to see much stronger regulations but this marks a step in the right direction. Right now, there are no limitations in Massachusetts on prescription opioids. While we had to make some concessions through the committee process, the House legislation does expand limitations beyond OxyContin to all opioids and I am very pleased with that. I am committed to working with the Committee to make further improvements throughout the process.”
Since the filing of the DiZoglio bill, a bipartisan group of federal legislators, including U.S. Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Kelly Ayotte, (R-NH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), as well as Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and Seth Moulton (D-MA), have called on the FDA to reconsider their decision to allow the prescribing of such a powerful opioid to children.
A study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that in 2014, nearly 1 in 30 high school seniors had abused OxyContin and 1 in 20 had abused Vicodin. In 2009, the Massachusetts OxyContin and Heroin Commission found that in 2007 alone there were 4,544 substance abuse treatment admissions in Massachusetts for persons age 15 to 19. The commission noted the second most-common source for obtaining prescription opioids was through a physician.
“Each day, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2,500 youth in the United States abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time,” said DiZoglio. “The number of opioids prescribed to adolescents and young adults nearly doubled between 1994 and 2007 and this continues to be a serious problem. We have a duty to our children to regulate the distribution of such powerful drugs.”
In January, DiZoglio also filed legislation, House Bill 344, designed to expand and strengthen substance abuse education in Massachusetts public schools. In the Commonwealth, there has been a 90 percent increase in opiate overdoses from 2000 to 2012, with one in five high school students having reported being offered, sold or provided illegal drugs at school. This legislation to expand substance abuse education to all students was also included as part of the House proposal.