Saturday, August 1, 2020

“There’s a lot riding on us”

From the Milford Daily News, articles of interest for Franklin:
"Pan-Mass Challenge 2020 Reimagined — a virtual version of the 40-year-old bike-a-thon that raises millions of dollars each year for the fight against cancer — will get underway Saturday.

The annual bike-a-thon, which usually kicks off in Sturbridge, is going virtual for the first time due to social distancing guidelines and other protocols because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The organization’s traditional ride typically includes 12 routes spanning 25 to 192 miles over the first weekend of every August.

This year, participants will ride or show their support through individual activities — on or off the bike — with the goal of raising $41 million in support of lifesaving cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The PMC donates 100% of every rider-raised dollar to Dana-Farber as its largest single contributor, accounting for 57% of its Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue."
Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required)

 There are a  number of Franklin riders, if you haven't contributed to the cause you can do so online

“There’s a lot riding on us”
“There’s a lot riding on us”

FHS Update: Week 2 (video)

FHS Principal Josh Hanna provides an update and responds to questions submitted since last week.

Link to video on YouTube

Week 1 video can be found here:

Week 1 video can be found here:

The mural referenced in the video
The mural referenced in the video

Franklin Education Association (FEA) Statement on Re-Opening & more

                             July 31st, 2020
Franklin Education Association Statement on Education under COVID

Dear Dr. Ahern, School Committee Members, and Community Members,
As educators in the Franklin Public Schools, we miss our students and want nothing more than to be back in the classrooms. Fall is usually a time of excitement, eagerness, and hope. This fall, however, is hardly typical. We care deeply about the safety and well-being of our students, as well as the quality of the education we provide. Our obligation, professionally, morally, and ethically, is to keep students, educators, families, and our communities, out of harm's way.
Members of the Franklin Education Association have shown time and again that we hold the interests of our students and their families, their continued success,  and the success of this school system, as our first priority. We feel this was exhibited this past spring in the hours spent preparing crisis learning, researching all kinds of resources and online platforms for ourselves, our students,  and our families, collaborating with teams, administration,  and colleagues, and connecting with students and families as much as possible. This "students first" philosophy compels our educators to go above and beyond in our efforts to elevate the opportunities for our students. We commit to these goals knowing that achieving them often means working long into the evening, sacrificing time with family, and ignoring self care and personal health needs. We do this out of our dedication  to teaching, and our commitment to our students. To ask us to put our lives, and those of our family members, on the line for the sake of reopening, is to ask too much. The district must demonstrate that health and safety conditions and public health benchmarks are met before buildings reopen to anyone. The FEA cannot support any plan that puts any members, any students, or the community, at such serious risk. Medical scientists have not fully reassured the public of the utmost safety to return to school buildings while the deadly disease of COVID-19 persists. More studies come out each day about complications and risks to younger students, middle school students, and impacts of trauma that could happen if we return too soon.
In light of the current rise in COVID-19 cases throughout much of the country—directly caused by premature reopening of communities—our members feel it is unsafe for students, teachers, and staff, to return to buildings.  Specifically, the following are our some of our many concerns:
  • Untenable and unsustainable scenarios for compliance with PPE/distancing guidelines puts the physical and mental health of students, staff, and administrators at risk.  (6 feet of distancing must be the minimum standard in all teaching and learning environments.  Face coverings must be worn by all students, staff, and visitors, with the exception only of documented medical conditions, where this practice is contraindicated)
  • Teachers cannot be tasked with policing students' bodies and behaviors as opposed to being educators who seek to connect with students and cultivate a love of learning. 
  • Staff who are vulnerable, or whose families are vulnerable to COVID-19
  • Environmental concerns loom large such as - 
School buildings with poor ventilation, rooms without windows, inability to use fans, heat indices well over 90 in many rooms, outdated HVAC, cleaning schedules and protocols, lack of timeline and training for all protocols and procedures needed for reopening.
We  understand that the District has an obligation to submit a plan to DESE, to meet the varied needs of students. We ask you to have that conversation, and to formulate that plan,  WITH us, not in spite of us.  The current choice before us is not education or safety. It is education with safety, with all of us working together in support of one another to help suppress, and defeat, this virus.
If we were to return to any type of in-person schooling, including a hybrid model, at this time, our students, educators, staff, and faculty, would have a school experience that would tell us that we are not valued, not worth being heard, not worth ensuring safety, not important in the lives of our community.   At this time, the Franklin Education Association calls upon the Franklin Public Schools to begin the year remotely until such time that a phased-in return allows for proper health and safety measures to be brought into place and monitored. 
Respectfully submitted,
Donna Grady, President
Franklin Education Association

Our mailing address is:
PO Box 654
Franklin, MA 02038

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Senate Passes General Government, IT Bond Bill Conference Committee Report

The Massachusetts State Senate passed a General Government, IT Bond Bill Conference Committee Report today, which authorizes $1.8 billion in investments to modernize the Commonwealth's general government infrastructure, improve cybersecurity capabilities, empower communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system, support early education and care providers, and expand access to remote learning opportunities for vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate-led priorities in the report include the following:

  • $65M in economic empowerment and justice reinvestment capital grants to support communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system with access to economic and workforce development opportunities;
  • $50M to enhance and expand access to K through 12 remote learning technology for vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • $37M for a food security grant program to address infrastructure needs for farms, retailers, fisheries, food system food distribution channels to address growing food insecurity and food supply chain needs across the Commonwealth due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • $25M to assist licensed early education and care providers and after school programs with capital improvements to ensure safe reopening during the COVID-19 public health emergency;
  • $20M for a body camera grant program for police departments to ensure accountability in public safety;
  • $10M for a statewide criminal justice data system modernization to help better track racial and ethnic disparities across the judicial and public safety systems;
  • $5M for the creation of a common application option for Mass Health and Medicare Savings Program applicants to apply for SNAP at the same time, use the same core eligibility information and verifications;
  • $2.9M for public health data warehouse for the analysis of population health trends including health trends and health inequities related to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • $2.5M for implementation of an automated electronic sealing process to seal certain criminal records.
The final bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

Senate Passes General Government, IT Bond Bill Conference Committee Report
Senate Passes General Government, IT Bond Bill Conference Committee Report

Senate Passes Bill to Increase Reporting Requirements for Department of Children and Families

Also establishes a Foster Parent Bill of Rights and Increases Access to Mental Health Care

The State Senate today passed a bill to introduce new oversight and reporting requirements for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families also moves the child fatality review board to the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA), establishes a 'Foster Parent Bill of Rights,' and increases access to mental health care for children in the Commonwealth.

"As a former Chair of Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, ensuring the safety and well-being of the Commonwealth's children remains deeply and personally important to me," stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to the strength of this bill by looking at the needs of our children from a holistic point of view. I'd like to particularly thank Senator Chang-Diaz and Senator Rodrigues for ensuring this bill moved forward."

"This bill represents an important step towards increased accountability in the child welfare system," stated Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. "While we must continue to push for improved data collection on racial disparities and LGBTQ+ youth, this legislation will strengthen transparency and increase support for system-involved children and families."

Under the bill, DCF would be required to publish consolidated annual reports and quarterly profiles, establish a 3-year plan with targets for safety, permanence and well-being outcomes for children, and submit a report on young adults who continue to receive services after reaching the age of 18. The bill also updates reporting requirements that are outdated, irrelevant or duplicative, and requires DCF and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop clear plans for maintaining close contact with, and providing quality education to, children who have open cases with DCF during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

"This bill will protect some of the most vulnerable children in the Commonwealth while strengthening our foster system and providing support for foster parents," said Senator Michael Rodrigues (D - Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.  "Thank you to Senate President Spilka for her leadership, Senators Chang-Diaz and Comerford for their work on this legislation, and all of my Senate colleagues for championing foster families."

"The mission of the DCF is vital and the Senate has consistently adopted bipartisan supported legislation to strengthen the agency so that the people who are tasked with protecting these vulnerable children have standards of accountability that maximize the well-being and safety of those they serve," said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester). "Importantly, this bill advances those goals in a timely and effective way."

To increase access to vital mental health care for children in care, the bill eliminates prior authorization for mental health acute treatment for children experiencing acute mental health crises. It also requires emergency departments to have the capacity to evaluate and stabilize a person admitted with a mental health presentation at all times, and to refer them to appropriate treatment or inpatient admission, expediting the process for individuals under 22 years old. Additionally, the bill establishes a pilot program, administered by the Department of Public Health, to increase student access to tele-behavioral health services in schools.

"This bill is an important step in maintaining the health and well-being of vulnerable children in our Commonwealth, particularly during this time of increased anxiety and need," said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. "I'm pleased that this bill reduces barriers to mental health care for children and increases access to treatment, making it easier for parents to get their child the critical care they need and deserve. I'm grateful for Senate President Spilka and all of my Senate colleagues for recognizing the importance of improving mental health care in our state and making it a priority this session."

"This bill ensures that critical and timely health interventions are available to people experiencing trauma and mental illness—especially young people," said Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro), Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery. "When left untreated, trauma and mental illness can follow well into adulthood. Putting resources behind these interventions is a reaffirmation of the Senate's commitment to transform access to mental health in the Commonwealth."

The bill seeks to increase support for, and grow the pool of, foster parents in the Commonwealth through the establishment of a 'Foster Parent Bill of Rights.' Specifically, the bill includes several key rights important to foster families, including: access to training and resources; the right to appropriate communication between DCF, courts, and others involved with caring for the child; the right to be free from all forms of discrimination in carrying out their duties as foster parents; the ability to exercise rights without fear of repercussions; and establishing a reasonable and prudent parenting standard.

"This important bill will help the state do better business when it comes to serving one of the most at risk populations in our Commonwealth: children in DCF custody," stated Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). "My heartfelt thanks to Senators Sonia Chang-Diaz, Michael Rodrigues, and Senate President Karen Spilka for their dogged work on this legislation. I am delighted that the rights of foster parents will be enumerated, strengthening their role and responsibilities within this complex system."

An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families now moves to the House of Representatives for further action.

Senate Passes Bill to Increase Reporting Requirements for Department of Children and Families
Senate Passes Bill to Increase Reporting Requirements for Department of Children and Families

"recent uptick can be attributed to individuals “'letting down their guard'”

From the Milford Daily News, articles of interest for Franklin:
"A backyard barbecue in picturesque Chatham has led to more than a dozen new coronavirus infections.

About an hour away, in the coastal community of Falmouth, an in-person high school graduation ceremony was scrubbed after school officials say some seniors were exposed to the virus.

And on the western side of the state, Baystate Medical Center in Springfield is dealing with an outbreak of at least 40 cases traced to a hospital staffer who recently returned from an out-of-state vacation.

Less than a month after Massachusetts allowed gyms, movie theaters, museums and other public venues to reopen, there’s an increasing sense of dread that the hard-hit state’s summertime respite from the pandemic is waning just as families are looking ahead to the start of school."
Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required)

Gov Baker's press conference on Friday July 31 =

In the New: An example of why you never share your password

From the Milford Daily News, articles of interest for Franklin:
A British man, a Florida man and a Florida teen were identified by authorities Friday as the hackers who earlier this month took over Twitter accounts of prominent politicians, celebrities and technology moguls to scam people around the globe out of more than $100,000 in Bitcoin.

Graham Ivan Clark, 17, was arrested Friday in Tampa, where the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office will prosecute him as adult. He faces 30 felony charges, according to a news release. Mason Sheppard, 19, of Bognor Regis, U.K., and Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, were charged in California federal court.

In one of the most high-profile security breaches in recent years, hackers sent out bogus tweets on July 15 from the accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked.


Twitter previously said hackers used the phone to fool the social media company’s employees into giving them access. It said hackers targeted “a small number of employees through a phone spear-phishing attack.”

“This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems,” the company tweeted.

After stealing employee credentials and getting into Twitter’s systems, the hackers were able to target other employees who had access to account support tools, the company said.
Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required) 

Follow Franklin Matters on Twitter -
Follow Franklin Matters on Twitter -

Attention Franklin: Coronavirus Information Portals

Town of Franklin portal:

Franklin Public Schools portal:

Friday, July 31, 2020

Concerts on the Common - July 31

July 31:
Jamie Barrett 6:00 - 7:00pm,
FSPA Students and Alumni in Concert 7:15 - 8:15pm

Download your copy of the flyer for 2020

Concerts on the Common - July 31
Concerts on the Common - July 31

Senate President Spilka Announces Local Aid and Chapter 70 Funding Commitment for Fiscal Year 2021

Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland) announced today that the Senate, House and Administration agreed to an unrestricted local aid and chapter 70 funding commitment that provides a baseline amount for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21). This commitment will provide certainty and critical support for municipalities and school districts as they finalize their budgets.

"The Senate actively pushed for this joint agreement so that our cities and towns can be clear-eyed about their fiscal situations as we all navigate very uncertain times," stated Senate President Spilka. "Our cities and towns make up the fabric of our communities, and our schools are the foundation of the future success of our children and our Commonwealth. We must do all we can to provide certainty, stability and support to these critical components of our state, and so I am very pleased that we were able to come to an agreement on this funding."

For FY21, the Administration and leaders in the House and Senate have committed to no less than the FY20 level of funding for unrestricted general government aid (UGGA) and chapter 70 education aid. Additionally, there is a commitment to Chapter 70 increases for inflation and enrollment that will keep all school districts at foundation, under the law as it existed for FY20, providing an additional $107M in aid over FY20.

This increase comes in addition to approximately $450M in new federal supports for K-12 schools to assist with educating students during the pandemic. These funds include:
  • $194M for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Grants through the Title I formula;
  • $16M for ESSER Discretionary Funds;
  • $25M for Remote Learning Technology Grants;
  • $202M for School Reopening Funds;
  • Up to $15M for Competitive Federal Funds.
Information on local aid and Chapter 70 amounts for each municipality can be found at this link (Opens an Excel file =

Despite the almost unprecedented fiscal climate, the amount of state and federal aid allocated thus far ensures the Senate, House and Administration can continue prioritizing significant investments in Massachusetts students.

Senate President Spilka, along with her counterparts in the Administration and House, remains committed to implementing the Student Opportunity Act. As state leaders work towards finalizing an FY21 budget, the ability to provide increased investments for school districts and municipalities will be evaluated. 

  • Chapter 70 = 28,416,161
  • Unrestricted Local Aid = 2,623,839
Senate President Spilka Announces Local Aid and Chapter 70 Funding Commitment for Fiscal Year 2021
Senate President Spilka Announces Local Aid and Chapter 70 Funding Commitment for Fiscal Year 2021

Franklin Public Library: August 2020 Newsletter

Franklin Public Library August 2020 Newsletter

Curbside Pickup Update
We're making changes to our curbside pickup so that you can pick up your items comfortably in all kinds of weather! Starting today at 10AM, curbside pickup will be in the vestibule of our new entrance at the top of the ramp! You'll be able to grab your items from this spot going forward! As a reminder, pickup is from 10AM-4:30PM!

Adult Programs
Franklin Public Library Book Club, Tuesday, August 25, 7:00 p.m.
The book for discussion is The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.            
"Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage--and lost his mother and all memory of her when he was a child--but he is also gifted with a mysterious power. Hiram almost drowns when he crashes a carriage into a river, but is saved from the depths by a force he doesn't understand, a blue light that lifts him up and lands him a mile away. This strange brush with death forces a new urgency on Hiram's private rebellion. Spurred on by his improvised plantation family, Thena, his chosen mother, a woman of few words and many secrets, and Sophia, a young woman fighting her own war even as she and Hiram fall in love, he becomes determined to escape the only home he's ever known. 
So begins an unexpected journey into the covert war on slavery that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia's proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he's enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, all Hiram wants is to return to the Walker Plantation to free the family he left behind--but to do so, he must first master his magical gift and reconstruct the story of his greatest loss. 
This is a bracingly original vision of the world of slavery, written with the narrative force of a great adventure. Driven by the author's bold imagination and striking ability to bring readers deep into the interior lives of his brilliantly rendered characters, The Water Dancer is the story of America's oldest struggle--the struggle to tell the truth--from one of our most exciting thinkers and beautiful writers"-- Provided by publisher.
A limited number of copies of the book will be available for checkout. For more information, please contact Assistant Library Director Kim Shipala at . To register, please visit .

Weekly Facebook Live Events for Kids!
Wake Up Wiggles! Mondays 9:15AM
Tummy Time for Babies! Tuesdays @9:30AM
          email Miss Caleigh at to register for Tummy Time!
Zoom Cool Cruisers! (Music and movement!) Tuesdays @4:00PM
          email Miss Caleigh at to register for Cool Cruisers!
Tummy Time for Babies! Thursdays @9:30AM
          email Miss Caleigh at to register for Tummy Time!
Bookworm Bounce! Thursdays @4:00PM

Happy Feet! Friday, August 14 @10:30AM
REGISTRATION REQUIRED! Please email Miss Bree at for information.

Ideal for children ages 2-4

Let's play some music and get those feet moving! Join us for an introductory class into creative movement using very basic ballet moves. From stretching our arms and legs, to skipping, pointing our toes, twirling in place and gentle jumps, we will have fun learning to move to the music while building coordination and confidence.

Toe Jam Puppet Band Virtual Visit!, August 8

Activated Story Theatre Virtual Visit!, August 12

Princess Picnic Virtual Visit, Saturday, August 15, 10:30 a.m.

Zoomtastic Book Club for Kids! Wednesday, August 12 @1:00PM **ideal for grades 3-5!** 
Kids in grades 3-5! Join us for a special zoom book club! We'll be reading a book together, and will meet for 4 lunchtime discussion sessions as we work our way through the book!
Register your child be emailing Miss Caleigh at

Kids Cooking Classes! Wednesdays, August 5 & August 19 @1:00PM
          email Miss Caleigh at to register for Kids Cooking Classes! **adult supervision required!**

Summer Wrap-Up Virtual Family Dance Party! Friday, August 21 @5:00PM
         email Miss Caleigh at to register for the Dance Party!

Hodgepodge Hide & Seek! Saturday, August 22, 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Where in Franklin is Mr. Vinny and his Giant Puppet? Join the fun for the last Social Distancing Seek and Find of the summer!
Follow the clues posted in the Facebook event and try to spot Mr. Vinny from your vehicle!
Franklin Public Library: August 2020 Newsletter
Franklin Public Library: August 2020 Newsletter

“This is going to make us a lot more efficient and effective"

From the Milford Daily News, articles of interest for Franklin:
July 22 was a historic day for the Fire Department, as nearly a dozen members sat before a small crowd in front of the fire headquarters downtown, crisply attired in their dark blue uniforms, every button and badge polished to a mirror finish, every glove and mask fresh and white as newly fallen snow.

It was the kind of occasion that merited bringing out the fire engines to frame the scene, each one as polished and neat and proud as the gathered department members.

On this day, 11 longtime members of the Franklin fire corps took steps up the ladder of their careers — four became the department’s first-ever battalion chiefs, four rose to the rank of fire captain, and three took on the responsibilities of fire lieutenant.

“I’m confident they are going to do a great job,” said Fire Chief James McLaughlin before each group of new officers was sworn in. “This is a historic day for Franklin fire.”
Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required)

Audio of the Fire Dept ceremony

Program and photos of the event:

after the ceremony
after the ceremony

before the ceremony
before the ceremony

Senate Passes Bill to Limit the Use of Step Therapy

Senate Passes Bill to Limit the Use of Step Therapy

Today (7/30/20), the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation to limit the use of step therapy, or 'fail-first' protocols that too often direct patients to cheaper medications rather than those more suitable to treat their condition, The bill, An Act relative to step therapy and patient safety, gives health care providers more leverage in determining the most effective treatment options for patients, saving patients expensive and painful regimens on medications they know to be ineffective or harmful.

This bill builds on the Senate's ongoing commitment to creating a more affordable, accessible, and patient-centered health care system for all. The Senate has already passed legislation this session to address rising prescription drug prices, increase access to mental health services, protect patients and enhance quality care. The step therapy legislation expands on this progress.

"From the outset of the session, the Senate has prioritized life-saving patient reforms that will improve treatment outcomes for all residents," stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "I am proud to add limiting the use of step therapy to our long list of health care accomplishments as it will help shift the balance of care back in the direction of the patient. I want to thank Senators Cyr and Friedman for elevating this important issue." 

"Providing the right treatment and therapies at the right time to people with cancer and debilitating diseases is all too important and critical during this extremely challenging time as is ensuring the wellbeing of patients in need," said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "With the passage of this bill today, the Senate is taking a vital step forward to providing guardrails around the use of step therapy and ensuring patient safety. I applaud Senate President Spilka for her continued leadership, Senator Cyr, Senator Friedman and others for their hard work and advocacy to move this critical legislation forward that puts patients first."

"Patients with complicated illnesses should be receiving the medications that their doctors know they need—not repeatedly taking medications that they know to be ineffective just to help insurers save on costs," said State Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro), Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Recovery, who sponsored the legislation. "Step therapy is a shortsighted practice that puts patients at unnecessary risk; it takes lower costs today in exchange for more harm, more hospitalizations, and more spending in the very near future. I'm proud that the Senate took action to arrest this practice in Massachusetts.

"This bill takes an important step toward placing treatment decisions back in the hands of the health care provider and patient by limiting opportunities for insurance companies to force a patient to fail on certain medications before they can access the one most suitable for their needs," said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. "While we must continue to address the high cost of drugs, we cannot do it at the expense of patients, and cost can never be the primary determinant of whether a patient has to suffer needlessly before they can access the medication that is most effective for treating their condition."

 "Too often, patients whose symptoms leave them weak and fatigued find that the regimen of medicine that they need is withheld and they instead are put on a path of pharmaceuticals which are at best less expensive but at worst ineffective in overcoming their illness. This so-called fail-first then try again approach leaves people and their families feeling desperate and uncared for," said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R - Gloucester).

Step therapy serves as a cost-saving mechanism that can limit a patient's ability to access the medication that is most suitable for treating their condition. Insurers that utilize step therapy protocols require medical providers to prescribe lower-cost medications to patients first, and only grant approval for alternative medications when the cheaper options have failed to improve a patient's condition. In practice, this results in insurers effectively choosing medications for the patient, even in cases where their providers have recommended an alternative. When patients change insurers, they are often forced to start at the beginning of the step therapy protocol again, which results in wasteful health care expenditures, lost time for patients, and potentially devastating health care impacts on the patient.

Step therapy is not limited to specific disease states. It affects patients across the healthcare spectrum, with particularly dramatic impacts on the Allergy and Asthma, Antipsychotic, Arthritis, Cancer, Coronary Artery, Depression, Diabetes, HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson's patient communities. 

As such, the bill would establish guardrails to protect patients in circumstances in which following step therapy protocols are counterproductive or harmful. It would require MassHealth and private insurers to grant exemptions to step therapy protocols in cases where the protocol-required cost-effective drug is likely to cause harm, is expected to be ineffective, has been tried by the patient previously, is not in the best interest of the patient, or adopting it in concert with the patient's existing medications would cause harm. Upon granting exemptions, MassHealth and private insurers would be required to provide coverage for the drug recommended by the patient's provider.  

The bill would provide patients subject to step therapy sequences with an accessible exception request process whenever coverage is restricted. The legislation establishes enumerates specific timelines for insurers to review requests and grant exceptions, and in cases where interruptions in the patient's medication schedule puts them at considerable risk, the turnaround time is faster. If an exception to step therapy is denied, the decision can be appealed. 

In addition, the bill takes several steps to enhance transparency. Under the bill, insurers would be required to file annual reports to the Division of Insurance (DOI) detailing the number of step therapy exception requests received, the number of requests denied, and the reasons for denial. This additional data is expected to keep insurers from chronically denying exception requests or making deceptive cases for keeping patients adhered to step protocols when they have requested otherwise.

The bill would also commit DOI resources to overseeing the implementation of step therapy reforms, with particular attention to cost-effectiveness and continuum of care for patients requesting exceptions. The DOI would be required to deliver biannual reports to the Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. 

If passed, Massachusetts would join 28 other states in curbing unfair step therapy practices. The bill, An Act relative to step therapy and patient safety, now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. 

Senate Passes Bill to Limit the Use of Step Therapy
Senate Passes Bill to Limit the Use of Step Therapy

Senate Passes Genocide Education Bill

Establishes the Genocide Education Trust Fund to educate students on the history of genocide.

The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday, July 30, 2020, passed An Act concerning genocide education to educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide and to promote the teaching of human rights issues.

"To forge a more just future, our next generation must be educated on the tragic history of the Holocaust and other instances of genocide," stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "The importance of this bill cannot be overstated, and I say this as a Jewish woman and the daughter of a World War II veteran who helped liberate the victims of Nazi concentration camps. I am very thankful to Senators Rodrigues, Lewis and Creem for their advocacy on this issue and my colleagues for their unanimous support."

"Seventy-five years after the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp, we, as a society, continue to grapple with the root causes of hatred and discrimination. With the passage of this bill today, we take a critically important step to ensuring our students are educated on the Holocaust, the grave mistakes of the past, and stand ready to root out the injustices of the future," said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "As the forces of fake news, division, and ignorance continue to march on, I applaud Senate President Spilka and my colleagues in the Senate for standing up to say that we will never forget the lessons of the past. I also thank my constituent, Dr. Ron Weisberger, and the advocates for their urgent efforts to ensure we use the power of education to address hate, broaden public awareness, and shape our collective future."

According to a 2018 article in the New York Times, 31% of Americans and 41% of millennials believe 2 million Jews or fewer were murdered in the Holocaust while 41% of Americans and 66% of millennials do not know what Auschwitz is. This bill would establish a Genocide Education Trust Fund to promote and educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide. Funds in this trust would be used to encourage the instruction of middle and high school students on the history of genocide and ensure the development of curricular materials, as well as to provide professional development training to assist educators in the teaching of genocide.

"It is shocking how many young people today have never heard of the Auschwitz concentration camp, the Holocaust, or other heinous genocides perpetrated in the past," said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. "This important legislation will ensure that more students understand the history of genocide so that it never happens again. I'm grateful to Senator Rodrigues for championing this legislation and to all of the educators and advocates who have worked to see this bill passed."

"Students need to be educated about the causes of genocide if we are to ensure that history is not repeated," said Majority Leader Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (D-Newton).  "Learning about the paths that various societies and cultures have taken—from bigotry and hatred all the way to expulsion and genocide—will help future generations avoid this tragedy."

"As the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, genocide education legislation is personal for me," said Senator Becca Rausch (D – Needham). "We are in a difficult moment in this country, as our nation and our Commonwealth grapple with significant upticks in blatant demonstrations of hate. Hate leads to devastation and destruction. We combat hate and ignorance with education and meaningful dialogue. I am proud and grateful that the Senate passed the genocide education bill today, and particularly grateful to Senator Rodrigues for his leadership and compassion."

"We congratulate Senate President Spilka, Senate Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and our partners in government for coming together to ensure that students in our state will learn invaluable lessons about the consequences of hate and bigotry, from the most painful parts of our history," said Aaron Agulnek, Director of Government Affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council. "We cannot simply say 'Never Again' if we do not also commit to educating the next generation by giving them the resources they need to recognize and stand up to injustice before it takes root."

"We appreciate the leadership of Senate President Spilka, Senate Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and their legislative colleagues for taking a critical step toward ensuring that Massachusetts public school students receive Holocaust and genocide education prior to high school graduation," said Robert Trestan, ADL New England Regional Director. "The need for Holocaust and genocide education in K-12 schools could not be more urgent. Massachusetts now has an opportunity to use the power of education to address hate through this essential initiative for Holocaust and genocide education in the Commonwealth."

The bill requires each school district to annually file a description of their lesson plan and programs related to genocide education with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The bill also establishes a competitive grant program that schools and districts can apply to for additional programming support.

An Act concerning genocide education now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Passes Genocide Education Bill
Senate Passes Genocide Education Bill