Diana Celebrates Passage of Valor Act II

With Veterans Day on the horizon, Diana joined her colleagues in the Legislature to enact the Valor Act II, which will expand services and opportunities for veterans and their families in the Commonwealth.

The Valor Act II, which garnered unanimous support in both the Senate and House, is designed to improve how the Commonwealth serves those who have so courageously served the nation.

Among the provisions in the legislation is the assisting of college students who are called to active duty. The bill will allow students who are unable to complete their coursework to finish those studies at a later time or withdraw from the course with a full refund. Another key provision of the bill establishes a Massachusetts service member Post-Deployment Council to deliver recommendations on the implementation of a program to support military members who transition to civilian life after deployment. This Council will focus largely on mental health services.

Under the Valor Act II, new license plates will be created for veterans, including those awarded a Purple Heart. There is also a provision that strengthens regulations in prohibiting persons from fraudulently claiming to fundraise for a veterans’ charitable organization when the donations would go elsewhere.

“In the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth, we owe it to our veterans and their families to provide them with the strongest services and opportunities,” Diana said. “I am proud to support the Valor Act II and delighted it will become law in advance of Veterans Day.”

Roundtable on Drug Addiction in the Merrimack Valley

IMG_9674

Diana has invited fellow lawmaker Elizabeth A. Malia (D-Jamaica Plain), chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, to hear from Merrimack Valley residents about the issue of drug addiction at a roundtable event on Thursday, October 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Methuen Police Department’s Sanborn Hall.

Addressed during the event, which is free and open to the public, will be substance abuse prevention, education, treatment and recovery in the community. Persons with expertise on the topic are encouraged to participate in the roundtable as the needs of the Merrimack Valley and possible strategies to reduce drug addiction are considered.

Recent articles in local news publications have noted an increase in heroin usage in the Merrimack Valley, with a record-high number of obituaries and police logs noting a fatal overdose of the drug. Local arrests of out-of-state people purchasing heroin in Massachusetts are also at an all-time high. Experts on drug usage have noted a change in the profile of a typical heroin user, from a drug once associated with the urban poor to one that has grown in presence among young people in the suburbs.

Experts have attributed the rise in heroin use to the growing popularity of prescription painkillers, most notably the opioid oxycodone.

“I have had many discussions with residents who have been fighting for their loved ones suffering from drug addiction,” Diana said. “It is absolutely heartbreaking. These troubled families each have a story to tell and they share the hope that, by coming together in a concerted effort, we will be able to make a positive difference in this area. I look forward to hearing more from members of the community, many of who have faced drug addiction themselves, as we raise awareness and consider all possible ways to combat this growing problem.”

“Drug abuse is an issue across the Commonwealth,” said Malia. “Connecting with individuals and families in all areas of the State is important so that we, as legislators, know where the gaps in the system are and how to address them.”

“Bring experts together to raise awareness and make recovery options available,” said Phil Lahey, host of the cable access show “The Empty Chair,” of the goals of conducting the roundtable. “Educate parents, teachers and students about addiction.”

“Addiction does not discriminate,” said Jennifer Burns, a UMass Lowell graduate research assistant who helped to organize the roundtable. “As a community, addressing our substance use epidemic in a holistic manner will benefit individuals, families and society. Addiction is a multilevel social issues and public health concern. It is our responsibility to raise awareness and implement resources within our communities to combat this epidemic and create social change in behavior, attitudes and beliefs.”

Also confirmed for attendance at the roundtable are State Reps. Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen) and Frank Moran (D-Lawrence).

Diana Announces New Slate of Monthly Office Hours

Diana has announced a new schedule of office hours for residents of the 14th Essex District to meet with her.

Beginning in October, Diana will hold a set of four office hours, each lasting one hour, on the second Friday of each month. The day starts with office hours at the North Andover Senior Center from 10-11am, followed by the Lawrence Public Library from 11:30am-12:30pm. Following that are office hours at Methuen’s Nevins Memorial Library from 2-3pm and Haverhill’s Presidential Gardens Neighborhood from 3:30-4:30pm.

The office hours offer constituents a prime opportunity to discuss in-person their concerns on any issue with Diana.

“During my first nine months in office, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting countless active residents from across the 14th Essex District,” Diana said. “With this new schedule of office hours, I look forward to meeting more residents and seeing many familiar faces.”

Diana Kicks Off Merrimack Valley Civic Education Tour at Haverhill Hunking School

Diana addresses Hunking Middle School’s eighth grade class during her visit to the school on Friday, October 4.

Diana addresses Hunking Middle School’s eighth grade class during her visit to the school on Friday, October 4.

As part of her initiative to engage and educate students across the Merrimack Valley about the democratic process, Diana visited Haverhill’s Hunking Middle School on Friday, October 4, marking her first stop on a Civic Education Tour.

Invited to the event, held in the school’s gymnasium, was Hunking’s eighth grade class. The program covered the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and, through interactive exercises, was designed to educate students about what it means to be a citizen and how to participate in the democratic process. During the event, students had the opportunity to partake in mock legislative and judicial hearings, the latter conducted by Michael J. Ryan of the Office of Jury Commissioner for the Commonwealth.

“I was delighted and honored to be among so many smart and talented Hunking students as I delivered a presentation on how ideas become laws and engaged the students in an interactive mock committee hearing,” said Diana, who has sponsored legislation to establish a comprehensive student civic education program. “I look forward to visiting other schools across the district in the months to discuss the legislative process.”

“In a time with an ever-growing cynicism about government, this was a great opportunity for the students to learn that, at its core, our government is still for the people and by the people,” said Jared Fulgoni, principal at Hunking Middle School. “One of our greatest charges as both a school and as a society is to educate our young citizens to be able to sustain our democracy. The students got to not only learn about government but actually got to participate in it and experience it in action.”

“Rep. DiZoglio gave us a lot of information,” said Iyana White, an eighth-grade Hunking student who portrayed the committee chairwoman in the mock legislative hearing. “Rep. DiZoglio and Mike Ryan were really cool. They were like regular people. I had never met a state politician before.”

“It was a very creative way of learning,” said Ryan Garrett, an eighth-grade Hunking student. “It wasn’t just ‘facts,’ I actually had to do it myself. My friends were the lawyers, jurors and witnesses and it was really fun to learn about the judiciary courts this way.”

“I liked the displays that Mr. Ryan had,” said Jared DiBella, an eighth-grade Hunking student. “He made it really fun. Rep. DiZoglio gave us some booklets and information and really wanted us to contact her with our questions. She made us feel like we really are an important part of the democratic process.”

“In class, learning about the three branches of government can be kind of boring, but this was interactive and helped us to really understand it,” said Vincente Nolet, an eighth-grade Hunking student. “The government may be shutdown in Washington, but today in Haverhill it was alive and kicking!”

In many of today’s high schools, civic leaning is often only offered at the end of a student’s studies, in twelfth grade. On the most recent national civics assessment, administered in 2006 by the National Assessment Governing Board, two-thirds of students scored below “proficient.” In 2010, more than a quarter of college students reported they did not register to vote because they did not know where or how to do so.

“All too often, our classrooms lack a strong civic education program to inform students about what our state government has to do with our daily lives,” said Diana. “It is so important that youth begin to genuinely grasp these basic concepts to ensure that they are able to actively participate and engage in the process as they are entering into adulthood.”

“It is critical for students to have an understanding of our judicial system early on, given they should be prepared to serve jury duty as soon as high school,” said Ryan.

The next stop on Diana’s Civic Education Tour will be Methuen High School on Friday, October 18. Diana is in talks with Lawrence and North Andover schools to also hold Civic Education Days in those locations.