North Andover Moms Fight for Turning 22 Bill

North Andover mom Kathy Keith and State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) testify in favor of An Act relative to school services for 22 year-old student’s transition to adult services.

North Andover mom Kathy Keith and State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) testify in favor of An Act relative to school services for 22 year-old student’s transition to adult services.

On paper, the Commonwealth’s “Turning 22” law made logical sense to North Andover mom Kathy Keith.

Chapter 688, better known as the Turning 22 Law, was enacted in 1984 to provide a planning process for young adults with severe disabilities as they leave special education and transition into the adult service system.

In practice, however, Keith found that the law, which terminates school services on a student’s 22nd birthday, made families feel like they were “falling off a cliff.”

Keith’s son James, currently in the Turning 22 program, recently graduated from high school and began his post-high school program. The transition was natural and similar to any student’s going off to college. Over time, however, James would come home to report that classmates were disappearing from the program. These classmates were removed from the program as soon as they turned 22 years old, an experience Keith says the students found “confusing, scary and even traumatic.”

Keith came across other moms in North Andover who too were concerned about the difficulties their special needs children were facing with this transition.

In November 2016, the moms reached out to State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) to voice their concerns regarding the Turning 22 law. Their conversation and future meetings resulted in DiZoglio’s filing of legislation to allow adults with disabilities who turn 22 to continue receiving services through the end of the school district’s year.

House Bill 3476, An Act relative to school services for 22 year-old student’s transition to adult services, amends the Turning 22 law so adults with disabilities are not pulled from classrooms abruptly the day they turn 22, which is currently the law.

Both Keith and DiZoglio testified in favor of the legislation at a July 11 public hearing before the Joint Committee on Education.

“There is a greater deviation between the maturity and coping abilities of special needs adults approaching age 22,” said Keith. “This legislation recognizes this deviation by providing flexibility in allowing the option to transition to adult services upon turning 22 or at the end of the school year. I have discussed this legislation with staff at my son’s school, who agree it would maximize and even out the educational opportunities for our young adults with special needs, enabling all students to benefit from four complete years of a post-high school program.”

“As a mother of a child at transition age, I am very much in favor of a single graduation date for young adults turning 22,” said North Andover mom Barbara Talbot. “It has always seemed unfair and at times mean-spirited to have classrooms following a school calendar where young adults leave the day after their birthday throughout the school year. It is at minimum disruptive to have people leaving randomly through the year. Also, the population that this ‘birthday graduation’ effects are a group of people that may already have difficulty with transition and sudden change. It would make more of a typical and normal graduation experience by having a single graduation date at the end of a school year for a group of students together.”

“It’s tough and awkward for our children to transition mid-year because it’s not consistent with what they’ve been used to for years,” said North Andover mom Diane Hanley.

“My son has autism and is 19 years old,” said North Andover mom Mary Pallazola. “Continuing school until the end of the school year makes perfect sense.”

“Students with disabilities and their parents have expressed to me the difficulties they face with suddenly being displaced within the school year,” said DiZoglio. “One day, students are surrounded by their classmates and teachers and the next, they’re abruptly pulled out of class, without basic rites of passage that are known to help students transition into adulthood, such as the graduation ceremony. The goal of this legislation is to make the transition easier and less disruptive, giving parents and students the option so they are able to make the decision that best suits the needs of their family.”

DiZoglio Bill Would Expand Domestic Violence Training

From left to right, State Representative Juana Matias (D-Lawrence), YWCA of Greater Lawrence Coordinator of Domestic Violence Prevention Mariel Batista, YWCA of Greater Lawrence Director of Community and Residential Services Arelis Huertas and State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen).

From left to right, State Representative Juana Matias (D-Lawrence), YWCA of Greater Lawrence Coordinator of Domestic Violence Prevention Mariel Batista, YWCA of Greater Lawrence Director of Community and Residential Services Arelis Huertas and State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen).

Under new legislation sponsored by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), beauty professionals, including hairdressers, barbers, cosmetologists, and nail technicians would receive training on domestic violence and sexual assault education as part of their job training.

Recently, Illinois became the first state in the nation to pass a law giving all licensed beauty professionals an hour-long training on how to spot domestic abuse. The training teaches them how to spot signs of abuse and suggest resources clients can access, such as nearby safe havens or numbers to call, while making sure to carry a judgement-free and caring demeanor.

Last week, DiZoglio, who modeled her legislation, House Bill 3465, after the Illinois bill, testified in favor of the legislation during a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.

“In Massachusetts, nearly one in three women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner,” said DiZoglio. “Nearly half of women and a quarter of men in the Commonwealth have been subject to sexual assaults and, on an average day, domestic violence hotlines receive nearly 20,000 calls, or 15 calls per minute.”

During her testimony, the Representative noted the countless incidents of domestic violence that have been reported in the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth.

“In the cities of Lawrence and Methuen, we have recently seen the devastating impacts of domestic violence,” said DiZoglio. “One instance in particular that set heads spinning in our region was the tragedy of Wanda Rosa, aged 29, brutally strangled in her home in front of her four-year-old boy. Shortly after her death, I began meeting more often with local advocates from the community to discuss how to address and hopefully prevent such horrific acts of domestic violence moving forward. Beauty parlors and barber shops are actually a hangout place for many patrons who spend hours socializing while receiving services. I came to realize how key hairdressers and beauty professionals can be in recognizing signs of domestic violence, such as bruises on the scalp under hair, which not all people can see. So often, abusers will strike their victims where most people can’t see the signs. This bill certainly isn’t the solution to every problem associated with domestic violence and sexual assault, but it is one more tool in the toolbox to stop the violence.”

DiZoglio’s legislation has the support of the YWCA of Greater Lawrence and other domestic violence advocacy groups in the Merrimack Valley.

“As an advocate and community activist who’s been working hard at promoting gender equity and social justice in the Greater Lawrence area for over two decades, I understand the important role that policy changes and legislations such as the one filed by Rep. DiZoglio have in combatting domestic and sexual assault,” said Vilma Martinez-Dominguez, Director of Social Justice Initiatives at the YWCA of Greater Lawrence. “Aestheticians, cosmetologists, barbers, manicurists, and other professionals in this trade often build trusting relationships with their clients so they are in a perfect position to provide critical support and resources to victims who may confide in them about the abuse they may be enduring. I am honored to have contributed information and language along with other Domestic and Sexual Assault advocates from other sister organizations.”

“We all have people in our lives that we don’t know very well but when we see them, we talk to them about our problems and issues and trust them in a way we don’t trust people we are close to,” said Sandy Almonte, co-founder of Delamano, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to domestic violence intervention and awareness programs in the Merrimack Valley. “It could be a barber a hairstylist or the mailman. The purpose of this bill is to train these non-traditional professionals in recognizing the signs of domestic violence and offer clients the resources they need to get help or report domestic violence to law enforcement themselves. Abusers may leave bruises or signs on a victim that most people cannot see. Victims of domestic violence are often afraid of reporting the crime to law enforcement, and validation from a trusted source like a hairdresser may be the push they need to get help. A hairdresser or barber also has the ability to develop a relationship with a potential victim that others may not be able to develop. When potential victims come into a safe environment like a beauty salon, they tend to open up.”

“This is an important bill that takes a step forward in preventing and responding to sexual assault and domestic violence” said Isa M. Woldeguiorguis, Executive Director at The Center for Hope and Healing, Inc., a rape crisis center in Lowell. “In Lowell, we launched a barbershop initiative because we know that hairdressers and barbers are not only confidantes, they are role models and leaders in the community. If they are trained in how to notice sexual assault and domestic violence and how to respond or refer, not only will victims be safer potential perpetrators will see non-violent role models. This is also a culturally relevant approach and so we applaud Representative DiZoglio for championing this legislation in Massachusetts.”

DiZoglio Amendments Directing Funds to Substance Abuse Prevention and Education Adopted in the Massachusetts House

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) makes a point on the House floor during marijuana debate.

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) makes a point on the House floor during marijuana debate.

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently sponsored and passed provisions in the House of Representatives that would increase overall substance abuse funding from anticipated revenue generated from the legalization of Marijuana. The provisions increase funding for substance abuse services from $30 million to $50 million annually, directing $5 million specifically to Massachusetts Public Schools to provide substance abuse related education, prevention, intervention, social emotional supports and training.

Prior to sponsoring the provision, DiZoglio met with North Andover School Superintendent Jennifer Price to seek guidance and input regarding strategies for increasing substance abuse prevention and education efforts. That conversation, and additional discussions with Lawrence Public Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Riley and Chelsea Public Schools Superintendent Mary Bourque, inspired DiZoglio to write the provision in the marijuana legislation for $5 million toward public schools.

“I so enjoyed working with Representative DiZoglio from the beginning on crafting this most important legislation to support our students and families,” said Price. “It is wonderful to have a State Representative who works so collaboratively with the schools.”

DiZoglio’s provision, also supported by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, The American Federation of Teachers, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, and Massachusetts Association of School Committees, was ultimately included in the legislation that recently passed in the House.

“Substance abuse prevention and education has been near and dear to my heart for many years,” said DiZoglio. “In working with Speaker Deleo, Chairman Dempsey and our House leadership team, my proposal to increase substance abuse funding from $30 million to $50 million was included in this legislation with a provision directing at least $5 million to our Public Schools. The recently passed marijuana ballot question further provokes the need to address addiction prevention and education strategies amongst our children and teenagers. The passage of this provision was a team effort with colleagues, advocates and teachers from across the Commonwealth. With the bill now heading to Conference Committee, we will continue advocating for the inclusion of these provisions in the final bill.”

“We are very pleased that Representative DiZoglio took the initiative, with full House support, to use these funds to support very much needed addiction prevention, treatment, education and recovery services,” said Maryanne Frangules, executive director at the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery.

“Substance abuse and the resulting challenges our children face today is a growing problem for school educators,” said Thomas Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. “The House marijuana bill recognizes these concerns with their inclusion of funding for education and prevention programs. Superintendents welcome the additional resources provided in the bill as we work to provide optimal learning conditions for our students.”

Young Women Career Day at Lawrence High School

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted, for a third-consecutive year, Young Women Career Day for more than 300 9th grade female students at Lawrence High School.

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted, for a third-consecutive year, Young Women Career Day for more than 300 9th grade female students at Lawrence High School.

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted, for a third-consecutive year, Young Women Career Day for more than 300 9th grade female students at Lawrence High School.

The two-hour program featured a panel of women from Lawrence and neighboring cities and towns who work in a variety of career fields, including an attorney, social worker, real estate agent, judge and more. Participants discussed themselves and their careers, including job duties, education backgrounds and favorite and least favorite parts of their jobs. They then broke off into individual tables, at which students had the opportunity to personally engage with each panelist.

“It was amazing to meet so many women who hold strong positions of power,” said student Renisol Castillo. “It inspired me to work harder and really go for what I want in life.”

“It was really exciting to meet professional Hispanic women from the area, one of who even grew up in my neighborhood,” said student Emily Gonzalez. “In a few years, I hope I’ll come back and inspired students too.”

“I was honored to again join so many smart and talented young women for Career Day at Lawrence High,” said DiZoglio. “They are truly the cream of the crop. Growing up, I did not have many opportunities to get to know different career paths. I started Young Women Career Day to help empower young women in our region, expose them to job possibilities they may not otherwise have been exposed to and connect them with women who are making a positive difference in the community. Thank you to Lawrence High for again providing me and my fellow participants with the chance to highlight the wide variety of careers these incredible students can, with hard work and determination, pursue after high school.”

Kittredge Third Grade Receives Hands-On Civic Lesson at State House

As part of her civic education initiative, State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted third graders from North Andover’s Kittredge Elementary School for a visit to the State House.

As part of her civic education initiative, State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted third graders from North Andover’s Kittredge Elementary School for a visit to the State House.

As part of her civic education initiative, State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted third graders from North Andover’s Kittredge Elementary School for a visit to the State House.

The students had the opportunity to tour the State House and meet with the Representative. DiZoglio brought the students into the House Chamber, where they sat in the seats of legislators, as the Representative explained how ideas become laws. Students then engaged in a debate, moderated by DiZoglio, over a piece of legislation that would mandate seat belts on school buses in the Commonwealth.

“The best learning doesn’t always take place in the classroom but rather out in the community, where students can see firsthand what they’ve been taught,” said Kittredge teacher Cypriana Coehlo. “Our school curriculum is based on Massachusetts and its people, so there’s no better way than to come into the State House and see history in action.”

“We had a great day learning about how state government works,” said North Andover mom Liz McDevitt. “The kids really enjoyed it and we cannot wait to have Representative DiZoglio visit us again at Kittredge.”

“It was amazing to see so many different things in the State House,” said Kittredge student Trinity Dellovo. “We had a great time debating the seat belts bill and seeing Diana in action. Also, the State House is so beautiful, especially the stained glass windows.”

“This was a great field trip,” said Kittredge student Zach Peterson. “Debating seat belts on school buses was so much fun and it was nice talking about how we feel about issues.”

Since 2013, DiZoglio has filed legislation to incorporate civic education in Massachusetts public schools. She also regularly visits schools across the Merrimack Valley, hosting Civic Education Days.

“This is our next generation of leaders so it is vital that we encourage them to be actively involved in the democratic process in whatever way we can,” said DiZoglio. “The students were given an opportunity to debate a real life issue that impacts elementary level students. While the debate was respectful and thoughtful, it was also adorable and entertaining. We got to laugh and have fun while learning some important lessons about state government.”

Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month Celebrated at State House

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) with Parkinson’s Disease advocates from the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth.

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) with Parkinson’s Disease advocates from the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth.

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted advocates from the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth at the State House for the third annual meeting of the state legislature’s Parkinson’s Disease Caucus.

DiZoglio serves as chair of the caucus and provided legislators an opportunity to learn more about Parkinson’s and consider legislative steps to address the neurological disease, which affects an estimated one 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, the National Parkinson Foundation and the Massachusetts chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA).

During the caucus, DiZoglio presented a resolution, co-sponsored by more than 40 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 in November 2015.

“The Massachusetts Parkinson’s Disease Caucus helps to raise awareness around Parkinson’s Disease and the role that legislators can play in helping the Parkinson’s community,” said Charles Brown, North Andover resident and Public Policy and Advocacy Volunteer with the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

“Programs like these are important in addressing stereotypes about Parkinson’s Disease being incurable and something that only impacts older people,” said Daniel Harvey, Parkinson’s Disease advocate. “The disease is not incurable and with the right funding, we can someday find that cure. Until there is a cure, there is a community.”

“It is of the utmost importance to inform people about the difficulties persons with Parkinson’s Disease face every day,” said Chad Moir, board member of the APDA Massachusetts Chapter. “The caucus helps legislators better understand how they can assist those with Parkinson’s and create legislation to ease some of the burdens caused by the disease.”

“Greater 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,” 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 of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease for his inspirational comments at this year’s meeting and for helping to organize the event.”

DiZoglio Declares Alcohol Awareness Month in Massachusetts

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and the Methuen Police Department’s C.A.R.E.S. Initiative recently proclaimed the month of April as Alcohol Awareness Month in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and the Methuen Police Department’s C.A.R.E.S. Initiative recently proclaimed the month of April as Alcohol Awareness Month in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and the Methuen Police Department’s C.A.R.E.S. Initiative recently hosted Alcohol Awareness Day at the State House, proclaiming the month of April as Alcohol Awareness Month in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

DiZoglio sponsored a resolution, co-sponsored by 30 other legislators from across the Commonwealth, proclaiming April as Alcohol Awareness Month. The Representative presented the resolution to the Methuen Police Department during the event, which was attended by Sergeant John Walsh and Jennifer Burns and Jacquelyn Ingersoll, C.A.R.E.S Community Engagement Specialists.

The C.A.R.E.S (Community Addiction Resource Engagement Services) Initiative was launched in October 2015 and is dedicated to reducing recidivism rates of substance abuse and crime by raising awareness, providing recovery outreaches and outreach to the greater community.

“Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year in the United States, with nearly 10 million youth reporting they have consumed alcohol within the past 30 days,” said DiZoglio. “It is imperative that we raise awareness around these issues, educating our youth about the dangers of alcohol. I want to thank the Methuen Police Department, Chief Joseph Solomon and the C.A.R.E.S. Initiative for their leadership in addressing underage drinking and for helping to organize this important program.”

House Passes Funding for Road, Bridge Repairs in the Merrimack Valley

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has passed legislation to authorize $200 million in Chapter 90 transportation funds for cities and towns during this construction season. Chapter 90 supports the reimbursement of municipalities across the Commonwealth for road-related projects.

Under the bill, H. 2783, An Act financing improvements to municipal roads and bridges, $815,312 has been allocated to the Town of North Andover, $1.1 million to the City of Methuen and $1.3 million to the City of Lawrence.

“Years ago, Chapter 90 funds were passed through the state’s annual budget process, which is usually finalized at the beginning of July,” said State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen). “The timing made it challenging for municipalities to plan ahead concerning their local budgets toward road and bridge repairs. This is the third consecutive year, however, in which we are funding Chapter 90 much earlier to provide our local government officials with an additional three to four months to prioritize their spending. This funding will go toward helping municipalities, including the Town of North Andover and Cities of Methuen and Lawrence, on road projects such as sidewalk, bridge and pothole repairs; landscaping and tree planting; roadside drainage; and street lighting.”

DiZoglio Pulmonary Hypertension Bill Signed into Law

Inspired by Methuen Family Battling PH, Legislation Will Improve Services, Awareness

Inspired by Methuen Family Battling PH, Legislation Will Improve Services, Awareness

Growing up, Methuen resident Ernesto Bencosme had always lived a healthy lifestyle and been athletic. Something would consistently, however, hold him back.

Doctors told Bencosme he simply had bad asthma but, in reality, his heart was overcompensating his entire life and increasing in size. His physicians did not have the education or understanding of pulmonary hypertension (PH) to provide him an early diagnosis.

High blood pressure in the lungs is called 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.

Ultimately, Bencosme experienced an episode of syncope, a moment when oxygen fails to reach the brain at a normal rate. He was then taken to a local hospital, later transferred to Brigham and Women’s and there diagnosed with PH.

Under new legislation, sponsored by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and recently signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker, a task force will be created in Massachusetts to improve public awareness about PH and improve health outcomes for those diagnosed with the disease.

House Bill 4121, An Act establishing a pulmonary hypertension task force 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.

Last April, before a public hearing of the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health, DiZoglio was joined by Bencosme, his fiancée Kara Cann and others from the Cann family, all testifying before the committee in favor of the legislation.

“The enactment of this law is a life-changer for me and the members of the PH community,” said Bencosme. “I am deeply grateful to Representative DiZoglio, all the legislative cosponsors and leadership led by Governor Baker, for effectively raising awareness to this deadly disease by creating this task force. Because of their collaborative effort with the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA), we are now one step closer to a cure.”

“With the passage of this legislation, we will make significant advancements in PH research, services and support activities across the Commonwealth,” said DiZoglio. “I am hopeful the progress made through this task force will ultimately save lives and bring us closer to a cure of this disease. I want to thank Ernesto for his incredible work in raising awareness around PH and the entire Cann family for fighting alongside side him in this critical effort.”

“Representative DiZoglio is a special person for taking the time to present this bill to the Massachusetts legislature,” said Frank H. Cann, Bencosme’s father-in-law and owner of the Coffee Cann Cafe. “For her part, my family and I are thankful for her thoughtfulness and efforts on behalf of Ernesto and the entire PH community. In addition, Representative Michael J. Moran (D-Boston) was absolutely key to the enactment of this law. I want to specifically thank him also for all his help. He went above and beyond the call of duty and showed true tenacity.”

“Massachusetts has made history as the first state to pass legislation to help raise awareness about pulmonary hypertension and will surely be a model for other states to do the same,” said Stephen L. White, former chair of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. “Pulmonary hypertension is a potentially deadly disease that is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed which causes unnecessary delays in treatment. This bill will play an important part in helping the public and the medical community become more aware of this disease.”

North Andover High Student Selected to Participate in Massachusetts Inauguration Day

North Andover High School student Kaitlyn Parks (left) was selected to participate in this year’s Inaugural Ceremonies at the Massachusetts State House, as a special guest to State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen, right).

North Andover High School student Kaitlyn Parks (left) was selected to participate in this year’s Inaugural Ceremonies at the Massachusetts State House, as a special guest to State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen, right).

North Andover High School student Kaitlyn Parks was recently selected to participate in the Inaugural Ceremonies of the 190th General Court at the Massachusetts State House. Parks attended the festivities as a special guest of State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen).

Parks, who has interned with the Representative in the legislature, had the opportunity to join DiZoglio in the House Chamber as legislators were sworn in by Governor Charlie Baker (R-Swampscott).

“As someone who aspires to someday get involved in government, it was so exciting to be there on the floor during an official House vote and have the opportunity to meet Representatives from across the Commonwealth,” said Parks. “I even got to shake the Governor’s hand! I have learned a lot in the classroom but nothing can compare to the experience of seeing the legislature firsthand.”

“Kaitlyn’s hard work over the past three years has contributed to our community and benefitted residents in so many different ways,” said DiZoglio. “I invited Kaitlyn today so she could have a firsthand experience at what it’s like to sit in our seats and participate in the legislative process. It is so important to engage our youth in the democratic process and this was a perfect opportunity to do just that.”