New Public-Private Partnership Will Provide Jobs to Local Disabled Veterans

On the heels of this coming Veterans Day, the Methuen Home Depot and Career Resources Corporation (CRC) have announced they will join in a public-private partnership to provide jobs for disabled veterans across the Merrimack Valley who are seeking employment.

CRC, which is based in Haverhill, is a nonprofit that serves communities across the Merrimack Valley. For 47 years, it has worked to empower individuals with disabilities and other barriers to be successful and self-sufficient. The organization’s partnerships with Valley Works Career Center, the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center and the City of Haverhill Veterans’ Services have provided area veterans with comprehensive support to seek and maintain employment.

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), who secured $125,000 in the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget toward CRC’s initiative to help disabled veterans find jobs, facilitated the recent meeting between CRC and the Methuen Home Depot that led to the partnership. The Methuen Home Depot will work with CRC to identify disabled area veterans in need of employment and potentially hire them for Home Depot jobs.

“Giving back is personal to The Home Depot,” said Carmen A. Fulchini, store manager of the Methuen Home Depot. “It is a part of our core values. More than 35,000 associates at The Home Depot have served or are currently serving in the military. Partnering with CRC allows us to give to those who have made the sacrifice for our country and also to let them be part of a productive and fun environment and to continue to have that feeling of contributing to make a difference. I want to thank Diana and the CRC for being dedicated to this and for allowing us to be a part of something that can help those in need”

“We are very excited to partner with the Methuen Home Depot to assist more veterans with disabilities in becoming employed,” said Brad Howell, chief executive officer at CRC. “Home Depot is a great example of a company that is willing to commit to making a difference in the lives of veterans. We are very appreciate of Representative DiZoglio who has supported CRC’s veteran’s program right from the beginning and continues to keep the needs of veterans foremost in her legislative and community work. ”

“As we approach Veterans Day, it is so important that we work together to address unemployment among our veterans, which remains high comparative to the overall population,” said DiZoglio. “These are men and women who have put their lives on the line for us and we need to do all we can to help them transition back into the community. I am grateful to CRC and the Methuen Home Depot for their commitment to joining forces in helping to put our unemployed disabled veterans back to work.”

DiZoglio Launches Parkinson’s Disease Caucus at State House

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), pictured alongside members of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and Massachusetts chapters of the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN) and American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA), recently hosted a kick-off of the Massachusetts Legislature Parkinson’s Disease Caucus at the State House.

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), pictured alongside members of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and Massachusetts chapters of the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN) and American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA), recently hosted a kick-off of the Massachusetts Legislature Parkinson’s Disease Caucus at the State House.

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) hosted a kick-off of the Massachusetts Legislature Parkinson’s Disease Caucus at the State House on Wednesday, November 4.

The purpose of the caucus, which will meet again in the spring, is to provide legislators an opportunity to come together with experts and advocates 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. The exact cause of the disease remains unknown.

Co-hosting the Caucus kick-off were the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the Massachusetts chapters of the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN) and American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA). Among those in attendance for the caucus were the Offices of State Senators Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport) and Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover).

This past April, DiZoglio hosted Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Day at the State House and sponsored a resolution, co-sponsored by 50 other legislators, proclaiming the month of April as Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month in the Commonwealth.

“Parkinson’s Disease is a chronic and progressive neurological disease without a treatment to slow or halt its progression,” said DiZoglio. “I was honored to host the kick-off of the Parkinson’s Disease Caucus and look forward 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 the kick-off and for helping to launch the Caucus.”

“Representative DiZoglio has been a true friend to the Parkinson’s community here in Massachusetts,” said Charles Brown, Massachusetts state director of the Parkinson’s Action Network. “This caucus gives the Parkinson’s community a tool to communicate needed services to improve the quality of life for us, our caregivers, and family and friends. I don’t know where my future journey will lead me, but it’s full of hope that there will be a cure.”

House Passes Funding to Move Women Addicts Out of Prison, into Treatment Beds

Included in the Massachusetts House of Representatives’ FY16 supplemental budget, passed on October 28, was $5.8 million toward moving women, civilly committed under Section 35, out of the Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI) in Framingham and into a hospital facility for treatment.

Under Section 35 of the Commonwealth’s General Laws, persons battling substance abuse may be involuntarily committed at the request of a family member, doctor, guardian or police officer if they are deemed a risk to themselves or others. They are ordered by the court to undergo detox and treatment at a licensed facility.

Given the lack of treatment beds, however, women committed under Section 35 are often sent to MCI-Framingham, the only prison for women in the Commonwealth. Men are sent to the prison in Bridgewater but, unlike women at Framingham, receive treatment under medical supervision. Women at Framingham are strip-searched, given prison uniforms and housed with pretrial detainees.

At the very beginning of this year, in January, State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) filed legislation to move Section 35 patients out of houses of correction and into hospitals. That legislation, House Bill 1790, An Act relative to safe in-patient alcoholism or substance abuse treatment, had its public hearing before the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse in September.

“Addicts deemed a danger to themselves or others need counseling and treatment, but the Section 35 law needs to be updated,” said DiZoglio. “That is why this past January, I filed legislation to move addicts committed under Section 35 out of prisons and into hospitals.”

On account of the increase in opiate addiction, Section 35 commitments have been rising dramatically in the Commonwealth. According to the Massachusetts Department of Health, there has been a 67 percent increase in Section 35 commitments since 2006.

“When there are no treatment beds at licensed facilities remaining, women committed under this statute have received unsatisfactory treatment while suffering the trauma of imprisonment,” said DiZoglio. “We must provide these women with comprehensive treatment, not jail time.”

Earlier this month, Gov. Charlie Baker also filed legislation to prohibit women from being civilly committed at Framingham.

“I am grateful to Governor Baker for his prioritizing of this issue as his administration addresses the Commonwealth’s opioid epidemic and also want to thank House Ways and Means Chairman Brian S. Dempsey for his leadership in ensuring these critical funds were included in the House supplemental budget,” said DiZoglio.

DiZoglio Bill Would Prohibit OxyContin Prescriptions for Children

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) has filed legislation in the Massachusetts House of Representatives prohibiting the prescription of OxyContin to children under age 17.

DiZoglio’s bill comes in response to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s August 13 approval of OxyContin for children as young as 11. OxyContin is an extended-release version of the painkiller oxycodone and has become known in recent years for its frequent abuse.

DiZoglio’s bill, An act regulating OxyContin prescriptions for children, states that “no practitioner, registered nurse or licensed practical nurse authorized to administer, utilize, dispense or prescribe a controlled substance in the commonwealth shall prescribe any medication or prescription containing oxycontin to any person under the age of 17.”

“OxyContin is manufactured by Purdue Pharma, a drug company which came under fire in 2007 after three of its top executives pled guilty to misleading doctors and the public about OxyContin’s risk of addiction,” said DiZoglio, who serves on the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the legislature. “Recently, the FDA decided to ask that very same company to conduct its own studies on whether or not they deemed this highly addictive substance safe for young children. When I heard of this, I was outraged. We are in the middle of an opioid epidemic. This is no time to expand access to opioids, least of all to young, vulnerable children.”

On September 9, a bipartisan group of eight U.S. Senators, including Sens. Edward Markey (D-MA), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), penned a letter to the U.S. Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee calling for an investigation into the FDA’s decision to approve OxyContin, as well as an examination of the rise in opioid abuse and overdose deaths. Their letter notes the FDA decision was made without the advice of an independent advisory committee, which is required by FDA regulations on approving drugs.

The Senators wrote in their letter, “Today, there are 2.1 million Americans abusing or dependent on opioids. In addition, 44 people die every day as a result of a prescription opioid overdose. Abuse of opioid painkillers is also linked to abuse of heroin, increased hepatitis C infection rates, increase in HIV transmission and a host of other negative public health outcomes. As we work to stop this crisis, the FDA’s decision to approve the use of OxyContin in pediatric patients is a step in the wrong direction, as it may lead to an increase in inappropriate prescribing and use among a population that are already at a higher risk for developing dependency and addiction. ”

A study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that in 2014, nearly 1 in 30 high school seniors had abused OxyContin. 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. We in the Commonwealth have a duty to our children to regulate the distribution of an opioid like OxyContin to these vulnerable citizens”

In addition to this bill, DiZoglio earlier this year filed legislation to develop a model curriculum designed for the purpose of substance abuse and addiction prevention to be incorporated in the Commonwealth’s health curriculum in grades 4 to 12. The Representative also recently secured $25,000 toward the Lawrence-Methuen Community Coalition’s Merrimack Valley Opioid Abuse Prevention Collaborative.

DiZoglio to File Bill Exempting Active Duty Military from Excise Tax

Under new legislation to be filed by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), active duty members of the military would be exempted from motor vehicle excise taxes while serving.

Presently in the Commonwealth, disabled veterans and former prisoners of war have the opportunity to apply for a motor vehicle excise tax exemption. This does not, however, apply to all active duty members during their service. DiZoglio’s legislation comes on the heels of Methuen City Councilor Thomas Ciulla’s introduction of a city measure exempting active duty members from the excise tax. Ciulla’s proposal passed unanimously.

Ciulla was inspired to address this issue by a constituent, Diane Amato, who reached out to him about the challenges she and her daughter Alfina, who is serving in Afghanistan, have faced with excise taxes. Even though Alfina is abroad serving the country and unable to use a vehicle stateside, she is charged with a motor vehicle excise tax.

This is not the first bill DiZoglio filed this year in regard to the motor vehicle excise tax. Another sponsored bill, House Bill 2484, An Act relative to motor vehicle excises taxes, is designed to simply the excise tax process and prevent multiple excise charges.

“In recent years, through the passage of such legislation as the Valor Act, we have made great strides in the Legislature in improving services to our courageous veterans,” said DiZoglio. “We have for years provided disabled veterans and former prisoners of war with the ability to be exempted from motor vehicle excise taxes and I feel strongly that this opportunity should be expanded to all active duty military members during their service. I want to thank Councilor Ciulla for his tireless work in bringing this issue to the forefront.”

“We need to make the excise tax process easier for our veterans, who all too often are penalized while giving the ultimate sacrifice serving our nation,” said Ciulla. “It’s about time we protect our citizens who serve to protect us.”

DiZoglio Secures Additional Funding for Merrimack Valley Opioid Abuse Prevention Collaborative

Included in this year’s Fiscal Year 2016 State Budget is an amendment, sponsored by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), for $25,000 toward the Lawrence-Methuen Community Coalition (LMCC)’s recently formed Merrimack Valley Opioid Abuse Prevention Collaborative.

The LMCC is a resident-based coalition focused on the prevention of substance abuse, child abuse and domestic violence through the establishment of neighborhood associations and community networks.

Through a $100,000 grant awarded earlier this year by the Commonwealth’s Department of Public Health, the coalition was able to compose an opioid data report on communities in North Andover, Methuen, Lawrence, Haverhill and Andover; a report the coalition recently released in conjunction with the official launch of its Merrimack Valley Opioid Abuse Prevention Collaborative, which will work to research the factors that contribute to local opioid abuse and find ways to improve and promote substance abuse education and prevention.

DiZoglio’s budget amendment will go toward resources and community outreach for the Collaborative. The funding was initially vetoed by Gov. Charlie Baker but restored by the Legislature for the final FY16 Budget.

“The fight against drug addiction in our communities has been one of the issues I have been most focused on in my time as State Representative,” said DiZoglio, who serves on the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. “I have had so many conversations with residents in my district and across the Merrimack Valley who have dealt with substance abuse themselves or have friends or family who struggled with drug addiction. This funding will help specifically with youth outreach, prevention and education in our community.”

“Heroin use, addiction and the death tolls are tragic and rising and more primary prevention and overdose prevention education are necessary,” said LMCC Substance Abuse Prevention Director Delilah Rivera. “Many heroin users report having first abused prescription drugs before turning to heroin. Through this additional effort provided by State Representative Diana DiZoglio, we will be able to do more outreach and provide more education to our youth and community.”

“The additional funding secured by the Legislature and Rep. DiZoglio, is a great additional resource for the area,” said LMCC Director Harold Magoon. “As we continue in developing our capacity in preventing the use of opioids and overdoses in the Merrimack Valley, these resources will allow us to expand our prevention-based programming for youth and community education and engagement.”

DiZoglio Files Bill in Response to North Andover Triple-Homicide

Diana Substance Abuse

This past January, 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 this tragedy, at the beginning of this year’s legislative session, State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) filed legislation, House Bill 1094, which would establish a task force on elderly and disabled persons residing in public housing.

The task force 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.

The task force would report to the General Court and chairs of the Joint Committees on Elder Affairs and Mental Health and Substance Abuse the results of its investigation by 2016.

DiZoglio’s bill has endorsements from the North Andover and Haverhill Housing Authorities, as well as Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, who presented testimony at the legislation’s public hearing held on July 14 before the Joint Committee on Housing.

“As an experienced administrator in public and affordable housing and long-standing advocate for elderly persons and persons with disabilities, I understand the complex needs and issues that arise when mixed populations coexist in apartment settings and housing authority developments,” said Cathy Hoog, Executive Director of the North Andover Housing Authority. “With the close consideration and discussions of the proposed task force in this bill, more solutions can be reviewed and considered. It is necessary that we have these discussions and more importantly, provide solutions.”

“The potential for this study to address the safety needs of the elderly population and provide means to resolve issues and concerns to ensure quality of life for elders living in subsidized housing is a key concern for ESMV and we support Representative DiZoglio’s bill to explore this issue further,” said Rosanne DiStefano, Executive Director of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley.

“I believe the study called for in House Bill 1094 will help to clarify some of the assumptions about the characteristics of the population of individuals in so-called elderly housing who are living with disabilities and/or disabling conditions,” said Ellen Walker, a North Andover resident who resides at the Foulds Terrace complex. “The entire population who live in elderly and disabled housing is made up of people who are vulnerable, and the safety of all tenants should be a priority.”

“Passage of H1094 will strengthen the Commonwealth’s housing authorities’ mission to provide safe, decent and sanitary housing to the low income populations that we serve,” said Joseph A. Hart, Executive Director of the Haverhill Housing Authority. “We can do better to protect the safety and welfare of our residents. This bill will begin a long-overdue discussion of the issues that arise in mixed population housing developments.”

“This bill is the first step in what I hope will be a comprehensive effort by citizens, in North Andover and across the Commonwealth, to protect our many seniors and disabled persons residing in public housing,” said DiZoglio.

Rep. DiZoglio, Auditor Bump Host Lawrence Seniors Day on Beacon Hill

From left to right, Lawrence Senior Center Director Martha Velez, State Rep. Marcos Devers, State Auditor Suzanne Bump, State Rep. Diana DiZoglio and State Rep. Frank Moran

From left to right, Lawrence Senior Center Director Martha Velez, State Rep. Marcos Devers, State Auditor Suzanne Bump, State Rep. Diana DiZoglio and State Rep. Frank Moran

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump recently hosted the Lawrence Senior Center for a visit at the Massachusetts State House.

About 50 Lawrence seniors participated in the visit, as they toured the State House and joined DiZoglio and fellow Lawrence legislators for a meet-and-greet over coffee and pastries.

DiZoglio brought the seniors into the House Chamber where they sat in the seats of legislators as the Representative explained how ideas become laws and encouraged them to be actively involved in the democratic process. Auditor Bump joined DiZoglio and the seniors in the Chamber to discuss the role her office plays in the Commonwealth.

Joining DiZoglio and Bump to welcome the seniors were State Senator Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover) and State Representatives Frank A. Moran (D-Lawrence) and Marcos A. Devers (D-Lawrence).

“I have strived during my time as State Representative for the 14th Essex District to host events like these that bring our wonderful seniors together,” said DiZoglio. “I believe it is immensely important that we keep our older adults independent, socially engaged and active and I intend to sponsor many more gatherings over the months and years to come.”

DiZoglio, Foster Kids of the Merrimack Valley Host Awareness Program at State House

From left to right, State Representatives Frank A. Moran (D-Lawrence), Paul A. Schmid III (D-Westport), Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen), David Nangle (D-Lowell) and Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), Foster Kids of the Merrimack Valley President Larry F. Giordano and State Representatives Paul J. Donato (D-Medford), Bradford R. Hill (R-Ipswich) and David K. Muradian, Jr. (R-Grafton).

From left to right, State Representatives Frank A. Moran (D-Lawrence), Paul A. Schmid III (D-Westport), Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen), David Nangle (D-Lowell) and Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), Foster Kids of the Merrimack Valley President Larry F. Giordano and State Representatives Paul J. Donato (D-Medford), Bradford R. Hill (R-Ipswich) and David K. Muradian, Jr. (R-Grafton).

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), Foster Kids of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. and the Foster Kids Legislative Caucus recently hosted a foster kids awareness event at the Massachusetts State House.

The program, which was held at the State House’s Grand Staircase, was held to highlight the nearly 10,000 foster children who currently reside in the Commonwealth.

DiZoglio recently sponsored a resolution, co-sponsored by 25 other legislators from across the Commonwealth, recognizing foster kids in Massachusetts. Among the co-sponsors were State Representatives Marcos A. Devers (D-Lawrence) and Frank A. Moran (D-Lawrence). The Representative presented the resolution to Foster Kids of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. during the program.

Foster Kids of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the needs of foster children in the Merrimack Valley, including all of Greater Haverhill, Lawrence, Methuen, Andover and North Andover. Its goal is to bring a positive influence into the lives of these children and support them as they grow.

“All foster kids need is a little help and someone who cares,” said Giordano.

“Children in foster care are kids who, through no fault of their own, have been removed from their parents due to abusive or neglectful circumstances,” said DiZoglio. “It was my honor to host this important event, raising awareness about foster kids in the Commonwealth, alongside Foster Kids of the Merrimack Valley Inc. and its wonderful president, Larry F. Giordano. I want to thank Larry for his years of incredible work serving our communities and for helping to organize this program.”

$1 Million Secured Toward Rt. 114 Public Safety Improvements

Included in the recently released FY2016-FY2020 Five-Year Capital Investment Plan for the Commonwealth is $1 million toward public safety improvements along Route 114 in North Andover.

The announcement of these funds, which will be matched up to 50-50 by Merrimack College in a public-private partnership, comes on the heels of years of accidents and injuries along the highway. In spite of the presence of a shuttle bus to drive them to campus, students at Merrimack frequently cross the traffic-packed four-lane road to get to and from the college, their homes and the many businesses along the Route 114.

The partnership between the Commonwealth and Merrimack College comes after more than a year of efforts by the North Andover legislative delegation to address safety concerns along Route 114.

In January 2014, at the request of the delegation, Merrimack College, the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission (MVPC) and the Town of North Andover, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) conducted a Road Safety Audit of Route 114 in North Andover. State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) hosted several meetings with representatives from DOT and provided the department a tour of the area.

The safety audit ultimately suggested improvements in sidewalk construction, better traffic signals and more clearly defined zones for pedestrians and cyclists. DOT stated in its audit that Route 114 has among the highest reported incidents of vehicle accidents in the area.

In February 2014, the MVPC commissioned a local engineering firm to draft a Route 114 Conceptual Improvements plan, which illustrated a series of improvements from the intersection of Route 114 and Andover Street to the intersection of Routes 114 and 125. In March 2014, the plan was presented to MassDOT and Merrimack College.

“We in the North Andover legislative delegation strongly advocated for funding toward improvements in pedestrian and bicycle safety and, through a Transportation Bond Bill passed in April 2014, met those concerns with action, securing $1.5 million toward sidewalk construction and better accommodations for both cyclists and pedestrians,” said DiZoglio. “These are improvements that, once completed, will leave safer thousands of local pedestrians and motorists.”

After it was determined that $2.1 million would be needed to fund the project design, DiZoglio met with officials from Merrimack College to discuss the possibility of a public-private partnership in approaching the project funding.

“Following several meetings, I was so pleased to see Merrimack College agree to partner with the Commonwealth for up to 50 percent of the project costs,” said DiZoglio. “I see this as a prime example of how important and successful public-private partnerships can be.”