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.”

Methuen Author Jay Atkinson Honored at State House

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Author Jay Atkinson was recently honored at the Massachusetts State House, in a celebration hosted by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Atkinson, who resides in Methuen, was named an Honors Awardee in Nonfiction by the organization.

Atkinson, whose latest book is Massacre on the Merrimack, has composed several novels, nonfiction books and a story collection. His book Ice Time was a Publisher’s Weekly notable book of the year in 2001 and another book, Legends of Winter Hill, made the Boston Globe bestseller list in 2005. His works have appeared in the New York Times, Men’s Health and other publications. A former college athlete, Atkinson is also head coach of the Methuen Fun Hockey League, a low-cost ice hockey program for children that also promotes youth literacy. He currently teaches journalism at Boston University.

Presenting Atkinson with his award at the State House was State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen).

Lawrence’s Solectria Renewables Recognized at State House

From left to right, State Representative and Manufacturing Caucus Chair John Fernandes (D-Milford), State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), Solectria Renewables CEO Anita Rajan Worden, Solectria Renewables COO Aybike Crott and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash.

From left to right, State Representative and Manufacturing Caucus Chair John Fernandes (D-Milford), State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), Solectria Renewables CEO Anita Rajan Worden, Solectria Renewables COO Aybike Crott and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash.

The Lawrence-based Solectria Renewables was recognized at the Massachusetts State House as part of the 1st Annual Manufacturing Month Award Ceremony, honoring manufacturers across the Commonwealth.

The leading U.S.-based photovoltaic (PV) inverter manufacturer, Solectria is known for developing and manufacturing string combiners and web-based monitoring components for commercial and residential projects. The company is also renowned for its automated production and advanced monitoring systems.

Solectria was nominated for this honor by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), a member of the legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus.

Baker Signs DiZoglio Veterans Legislation into Law

Veterans legislation recently signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker includes provisions, sponsored by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), to exempt active duty military from the Commonwealth’s motor vehicle excise tax and find ways to improve transition services for returning vets.

Under House Bill 4285, “The HOME Act,” active duty members of the military will now be exempt from the Commonwealth’s motor vehicle excise tax while serving. The excise tax will not apply to Massachusetts residents in active and full-time military service who have been deployed or stationed outside of the Commonwealth for a period of at least 180 days.

This measure was inspired by a conversation DiZoglio had last year with a Methuen constituent, Diane Amato. Last August, Amato and her daughter Alfina, as well as Methuen City Councilor Thomas Ciulla, contacted DiZoglio regarding an issue the Amatos were facing with excise taxes. Despite the fact that Alfina was serving overseas in Afghanistan and unable to use a vehicle stateside, she was being charged with a motor vehicle excise tax.

“It can take years to pass a piece of legislation,” said DiZoglio. “I am very grateful to have been able to earn the support on the bills that I filed that were recently passed unanimously by both Democrats and Republicans. I am thankful to local advocates such as Methuen City Councilor Tom Ciulla and Diane Amato of Methuen for their passion and dedication to working together with my colleagues and I to see this through to the end.”

The legislation also creates a commission to look into ways to improve transition services for returning veterans and reduce the rate of suicide and effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. The commission will investigate and study veterans’ reintegration into civilian life and issues related to isolation and suicide.

This measure was earlier endorsed by the Gold Star Wives of America, VFW Post 8772 and Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNOC), located in Haverhill.

According to Pentagon data, war was the leading cause of death in the military nearly every year between 2004 and 2011 until suicide became the top cause of troop deaths in 2012 and 2013. A recent national study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found deployed veterans have a 41 percent higher suicide risk compared to the general U.S. population, while non-deployed veterans have a 61 percent high suicide risk. Among veterans who died serving during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2001-2007, roughly a fifth were suicides.

“Currently, the rate of suicide among our returning veterans is higher than that of those killed in the line of duty,” said DiZoglio. “This is simply unacceptable. I filed this legislation to ensure additional mental health services would be provided to the men and women who risk their lives to protect us. This bill will assist in their transition back into our communities. I am grateful to Governor Baker for signing this legislation as an example of his commitment to veterans in the Commonwealth.”

Lawrence RMV to Stay Put

The Lawrence RMV branch, once proposed to be moved to a new location in Downtown Lawrence, will remain in its current location on Route 114 in South Lawrence.

A lease has not only been signed to keep the RMV branch in South Lawrence, but also expand and update the location, going from 10,500 to 13,330 square feet and incorporating new physical and technological enhancements. Improvements are expected to be finished by early next year.

The news comes on the heels of years of contentious debate on whether to move the RMV to a new location in Downtown Lawrence. In July 2014, state and local officials, without input from the public or state legislators, announced a plan to relocate the branch from its current location on Route 114 to Downtown Lawrence.

Leading the opposition to the move was State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), who represents South Lawrence in the legislature and met with the then-RMV Registrar to advocate for staying in its current location. Five thousand Merrimack Valley residents had signed a petition to keep the Registry in South Lawrence.

“During my time as State Representative, countless residents from across my district have contacted me to express their concerns about the proposed move of the Lawrence RMV,” said DiZoglio. “It was my responsibility to speak up on behalf of my constituents who did not have a seat at the table in the closed-doors discussions on the proposal.”

Opponents had expressed concerns about the economic impact on businesses along Route 114 that would result from a relocation of the RMV branch, as well as regarding the perceived lack of convenience and parking at a new Downtown Lawrence location. DiZoglio requested a public hearing be held on the proposed relocation but this was denied by the RMV, citing lack of precedence for holding such a forum.

“I am thrilled that the RMV will remain in its current location, where it has been so critical to the economic vitality of nearby businesses,” said DiZoglio. “This location is easily accessible for residents across the Merrimack Valley and affords substantial parking. I look forward to seeing firsthand the improvements at the branch, which will help to make visiting the Lawrence RMV a speedier and more pleasant experience for customers. This has been a long, uphill battle. Since I have been working on the issue, there have been three different Registrars of Motor Vehicles. I am very thankful to the current Registrar and the Baker administration for not only hearing the concerns of the people I represent on this issue but also acting on it.”

North Andover Seniors Day on Beacon Hill

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State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted the North Andover Senior Center for a visit at the Massachusetts State House.

Following brunch and a historical tour of the building, DiZoglio brought the seniors into the House Chamber where they sat in the seats of legislators as the Representative discussed the legislative process.

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