Diana Appointed to Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee

Diana Substance Abuse

Diana has been appointed to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

Last year, Diana brought together members of the community, including experts on drug addiction issues and elected officials, to form what is now called the Merrimack Valley Substance Abuse Task Force. The Task Force has since held events where substance abuse prevention, education, treatment and recovery have been addressed and holds monthly meetings in the community.

In recent months, Diana has spoken with House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and Representative Liz Malia (D-Boston) about the possibility of her joining the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

“I am excited to have Representative DiZoglio join the Committee,” said Malia, Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. “I attended the task force meeting she hosted this year and it is clear she is dedicated to addressing substance abuse issues in her community. I look forward to working more closely with her on substance abuse and mental health issues that exist in her district, in mine, and in all others across the Commonwealth.”

“I have had countless discussions with residents in my district and across the Merrimack Valley who have battled substance abuse themselves or have friends or family who have dealt with drug addiction,” said Diana. “Their heartbreaking stories have inspired me to do all I can to address our epidemic of drug abuse and I look forward to getting to work in my new capacity on the committee.”

House Passes Funding for Improvements Along Route 114

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has voted to enact a bond bill toward transportation projects across the Commonwealth. Included in this package is critical funding for improvements along Route 114.

Members of the North Andover legislative delegation have fiercely advocated in recent months for funding toward improvements in pedestrian and bicycle safety along Route 114 in North Andover, from the Lawrence municipal boundary to the intersection of Route 114 and Hillside Road.

A Road Safety Audit was conducted by MassDOT back in January at the request of the delegation after public safety concerns were alerted to them by Merrimack College and the Town of North Andover. According to MassDOT, Route 114 has among the highest reported incidents of vehicle accidents in the area.

The requested improvements, which include sidewalk construction and better accommodations for cyclists and pedestrians, have been fully funded at $1.5 million in the final bond bill.

“Over the past year, we have heard many concerns from residents in the community, from cyclists to drivers to pedestrians, about the safety conditions on Route 114,” said Diana, who represents a portion of North Andover. “To meet these concerns with action, we needed to come up with the necessary funding and with the passage of this bond bill, we will be able to do just that.”

House Passes Comprehensive Domestic Violence Legislation

Diana joined her colleagues in the House to pass comprehensive domestic violence legislation which creates new criminal offenses and elevated penalties, boosts prevention efforts and seeks to empower victims.

The legislation establishes a first offense domestic assault and battery charge that will allow officials to immediately identify an offender who has a history of domestic violence and take appropriate punitive action. As a result, a second offense charge of domestic violence will include cases in which a first offense had resulted in probation or a continuance without a finding. The bill also creates a specific charge of strangulation and suffocation, actions that statistically indicate an abuser is more likely to commit domestic violence related homicide in the future.

“We in the Legislature must ensure our state laws effectively help to protect women and families against domestic violence,” said Diana. “This is strong and comprehensive legislation designed to both protect victims and crack down on serial abusers. I stand with my colleagues in celebrating its passage.”

The bill provides enhanced resources to help balance prevention and punishment. By standardizing records and mandating that they are shared across jurisdictions, the legislation ensures key decision-makers have the most accurate information and that parties have access to an offender’s complete history.

The bill abolishes the antiquated practice of allowing accord and satisfaction, a practice in which parties agree to a private financial settlement, in domestic violence cases and establishes the below crimes:

• Domestic assault or domestic assault and battery near a court house;
•Domestic assault or domestic assault and battery with the intent to intimidate or prevent access to courts.
In an effort to consistently improve prevention efforts the legislation establishes enhanced training programs and creates Domestic Fatality Review Teams which will investigate domestic violence related fatalities. The state-level review teams will serve as a tool to help officials understand any shortcomings present in current protocol.

The bill also includes the following provisions:

•Delays bail for offenders to provide the victim with time for safety planning and authorizes the revocation bail in certain cases;

•Establishes employment leave for victims of domestic violence;

•Establishes fees for domestic violence offenses. These will be invested in the newly created Domestic Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance fund;

•Broadens court authorization related to custody and support orders;

•Requires law enforcement agencies to provide information on batterer’s intervention to defendants when serving them with a Chapter 209A restraining order.

The legislation also promotes innovative approaches such as multi-disciplinary high risk teams and a grants program to provide assistance to victims of domestic violence. The bill passed the House unanimously.

Methuen High School Holds Distracted Driving Day

Distracted Driving

Diana in coordination with Superintendent Judith Scannell and local community leaders and teachers organized the first-ever End Distracted Driving Day for Methuen High School Juniors and Seniors.

Saba Hashem and President J. Michael Conley of the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys (MATA) presided over the presentation, offering statistics on the safety crisis and asking students if they were ever guilty of distracted driving themselves. Most raised their hands. Shown during the program were videos of drivers texting and engaging in other distracting activities at the wheel. More than 500,000 Americans suffer traumatic brain injuries in motor vehicle accidents annually, roughly 20 percent of which are caused by distracted driving.

Over the past three years, MATA has been the lead Massachusetts consumer advocacy group for distracted driving. This effort began following the tragic death of Casey Feldman, daughter of trial lawyer Joel Feldman, who was killed by a distracted driver. Joel created the Casey Feldman Foundation and EndDD.org (End Distracted Driving) in her honor and it is Casey’s passing that inspires MATA to continue its initiative.

“Distracted driving is a very serious danger to the community,” said Hashem, who is a resident of Methuen. “This is not only a teen problem, it’s everyone’s problem and it is important to empower teens to have conversations with their parents and other adults and their classmates and friends so we can end distracted driving. It is a threat to the community.”

“We need to build awareness of the dangers of distracted driving,” said Emily Stein, whose father was tragically killed by a distracted driver. “It’s not just a teen problem, it’s a problem for everyone of all ages. We hope they bring this issue home to their parents to discuss their parents’ driving habits as well. It’s also about encouraging teens to make safe choices. After all, there is nothing more important than their safety. This was a great event and the kids were amazing.”

“The presentation was outstanding, the message was clear to students that texting while driving impacts many people with very serious consequences,” said Superintendent Scannell. “The video as well as the guest speaker hit home. Let’s hope the message spreads.”

“The presentation was timely and most appropriate for both students and staff,” said Ann Marie Krusell, Department Chair of English at Methuen High. “The video clips, discussion points, and speakers made a profound impression on the audience with poignant and memorable moments. All were touched by the honesty of the presentation and the universal appeal, which resonates with every individual. Resulting in class discussions for the rest of the day, students attached personal meaning and resolved to make better choices. Wearing pink and black bracelets as they left the building, our school and community has embraced the true meaning of being “distracted” as they face the future being much more aware. We hope to make this an annual event.”

“I don’t think teenagers, even adults for that matter, realize the severity of distracted driving,” said student Adam Marchand. “It only takes a second of distraction to take someone’s life. It’s really scary.”

“I truly thought the assembly was very eye opening and very close to everybody’s heart, because we all know of someone who drives distracted and some of us are even victims of this as well,” said student Rima Rustom. “It was great to be reminded that we could and should prevent things like that, because if I don’t want it to happen to my mom or brother, then I’m sure no one else would want to either.”

“This is an issue of public safety and I am glad we had the opportunity to address the students in time for prom season and before summer break when they will be on the road more often. I want to thank Mr. Hashem, Mr. Conley, Emily, Superintendent Scannell, the amazing teachers and students of Methuen High and everyone else graciously in attendance,” said Diana.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving means any activity that could divert one’s attention away from the task of driving. This includes not just texting or making phone calls, but any activity that’s liable to distract, such as eating or reading.

For additional information on distracted driving, please visit www.enddd.org.