Action Alert! Contact Your Senator Today for Health Equity in the Senate Budget

This week the Senate is deliberating on the fiscal year 2019 Senate Ways and Means budget proposal. Now is the time to act to make sure that essential public health funding is included in the FY19 budget.

Please contact your Senator TODAY and urge her or him to co-sponsor the important amendments listed below. Don’t forget to mention why the program or programs you are calling about are important to you.

To find your Senator’s contact information or to find out who your State Senator is, click here.

Please ask your Senator to co-sponsor the following amendments: 

Addressing Social Determinants of Health through Health Care:

  • Social Determinants of Health Supports for MassHealth Members—Amendment #599 by Senator Welch (language in 4000-0500).

This amendment will ensure the availability of data from MassHealth about screening and interventions related to the social determinants of health (SDOH). MassHealth accountable care organizations (ACOs) will be responsible for identifying among their 800,000 members those who are impacted by SDOH such as housing insecurity, food insecurity, transportation needs, and exposure to violence—issues directly related to poor health outcomes, health inequities, and high health care costs. This data is essential to understand the activities, successes, and challenges. Data will also allow the public to assess the availability of social services and identify any gaps that may exist by region, population, or service type.

Healthy Food Access & Chronic Disease Prevention:

  • Health Promotion & Disease Prevention—Amendment #584 by Senator Lewis—fund 4513-1111 at $3,610,997.

This account is the sole source of state funding for the prevention and management of chronic diseases, which are the leading cause of poor health and rising health care costs. Programs funded by this account include the Mass in Motion initiative, which supports more than 60 municipalities to increase access to healthy food and safe spaces for physical activity for kids and seniors; prostate, breast, and cervical cancer prevention programs; training on health equity and combating racial health disparities for community-based service providers; and support for community health workers (CHWs) as Massachusetts moves toward formal certification of CHWs.

  • Healthy Incentives Program (HIP)—Amendment #489 by Senator Gobi—fund at $6,200,000 within 4400-1001 (increase over FY18).

The Healthy Incentives Program increases access to fresh, healthy, local foods for food insecure families in the Commonwealth participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and helps to sustain Massachusetts farms by increasing their sales. In doing so, the Healthy Incentives Program improves health outcomes in low-income communities, supports the local economy, and helps to protect farmland and natural resources.

  • Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation & Prevention Program (MTCP)—Amendment #515 by Senator Lewis—fund 4590-0300 at $8,500,000 (increase over FY18).

MTCP is critical to the fight against tobacco in Massachusetts. It funds local boards of health and community organizations to implement and enforce laws, provides enforcement and education, operates the state’s quitline, produces ads and materials educating about tobacco and nicotine, and collects data on tobacco use, including the rise in e-cigarette use among young people. The cut proposed in SWM comes at a time when schools are turning to MTCP for help handling the use of Juul and other new tobacco products.

Substance Use Treatment:

  • Diversion to Treatment—Amendment #641 by Senator Brownsberger—fund 4512-0202 at $5,000,000 (increase over FY18).

Recognizing substance use disorder as a disease and connecting people with substance use disorders to treatment is fundamental to ending the opioid crisis. Increased funding will expand access statewide for pre-adjudication Jail Diversion residential treatment programs for non-violent offenders with substance use disorders.

Housing Security: 

  • Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, MRVP—Amendment #777 by Senator Boncore—fund 7004-9024 at $120,000,000 (increase over FY18).

Stable, safe, and affordable housing is a driver of good health outcomes. More than 60% of the Commonwealth’s renter households earning less than 30% of the Area Median Income (AMI) and more than one-third of renter households earning 31-50% of the AMI are severely cost burdened, needing to spend more than half of their income on housing costs. Additional funding will allow for adjustments to the rent cap and provide approximately 1,000 new vouchers.

What’s next?

After the Senate debates its budget, The House and Senate will appoint three members each to a “Conference Committee” to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate proposals.

For more information, contact Maddie Ribble at: mribble@mapublichealth.org or Melanie O’Malley at: momalley@mapublichealth.org.

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