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


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

North Andover Seniors 2

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.”

House Budget Includes Additional Funding for Local Young Women’s Recovery Home

From left to right, Pegasus House residents Clara and Stephanie, The Psychological Center CEO Carina Pappalardo and State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen)

From left to right, Pegasus House residents Clara and Stephanie, The Psychological Center CEO Carina Pappalardo and State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen)

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) meets with Pegasus House residents Clara and Stephanie

State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) meets with Pegasus House residents Clara and Stephanie

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has included in its Fiscal Year 2017 Budget an amendment, sponsored by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), to provide $50,000 for the Pegasus House residential treatment facility in Lawrence.

The facility, operated by The Psychological Center, offers substance abuse treatment for young women between ages 18 and 25. Established in 1985, the facility offers an environment that reinforces a drug and alcohol-free lifestyle. Clients are able to pursue their GED or take college classes at local community colleagues and receive assistance in applying for and maintain a job. The average length of stay is four to six months.

The Psychological Center’s mission is to help individuals across the Merrimack Valley who are experiencing mental health issues, substance or alcohol abuse, addiction or homelessness.

“These funds will help provide critical resources to fight addiction in a time of great need,” said Carina Pappalardo, CEO of The Psychological Center. “In the past 30 days, we have had four graduations at Pegasus House. That is a very successful number. We contribute this to our strong, dedicated staff, effective program model and the ladies’ commitment to maintain a drug and alcohol free lifestyle. Beyond the six months of intensive treatment, the program is reconnecting families, creating happy memories for the ladies and saving lives. There is no better feeling. We are truly grateful for the support of Representative DiZoglio and her recognition of the need for continued services at The Psychological Center. Through education, awareness and treatment at our programs, we will continue to make a visible difference.”

“I found myself here,” said Clara, a current resident of Pegasus House. “This place gives me hope that other places didn’t. The staff here really care”

“This recovery home truly gives a hand up by educating, motivating and assisting recovering young women who require around-the-clock care,” said DiZoglio. “These young women have made a decision to live separate from their friends and family in a facility where they are able to focus solely on treatment and recovery from addiction. This funding will assist in providing the resources they need to succeed.”

On Saturday, August 13, from 8am to noon, The Psychological Center will host the Strike Out Stigma Softball Tournament to raise awareness about addiction, homelessness and mental health disorders. The tournament, in which police and fire departments from local cities and towns will compete, will be held at Burnham Road in Methuen.

DiZoglio Secures $20,000 in Funding for Merrimack Valley Prevention and Substance Abuse Project

Diana Substance Abuse

The Merrimack Valley Prevention and Substance Abuse Project (MVPASAP) was formed in 2013 to bring members of the community together, including experts on drug addiction issues and elected officials, to address substance abuse prevention, education, treatment and recovery.

MVPASAP, which now regularly holds public meetings in Methuen, was launched in response to the heroin epidemic that has ravaged the Merrimack Valley, with record-high numbers of police logs and obituaries noting fatal overdoses of the drug.

Now, the Massachusetts House of Representatives has included in its Fiscal Year 2017 Budget an amendment, sponsored by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), for $20,000 in funding toward MVPASAP for resources, programs and community outreach.

“I can’t stress just how much we appreciate the work Representative DiZoglio has done for MVPASAP,” said Methuen resident Phil Lahey, co-founder of MVPASAP. “We have great volunteers who have been doing quite a bit with little to no funding and with these funds, we will be able to give these dedicated people a chance to start putting their ideas into practice, when it comes to awareness, prevention and education.”

“This funding is an absolutely beautiful thing,” said Colleen Lahey, daughter of Phil and a former heroin addict. “Heroin addiction is the most powerful and dangerous disease I have ever dealt with and any funding to go toward addressing this problem is wonderful. Thank you Representative DiZoglio for making it happen.”

“This is a community-wide issue and needs a community-wide solution,” said Anne Whalen, Methuen YMCA Executive Director and MVPASAP Youth Committee Chair. “This funding will enable MVPASAP to provide more awareness and education on substance abuse prevention, and have a greater impact in the Merrimack Valley.”

“We at MVPASAP are working hard to bring awareness and education to people across the Merrimack Valley,” said Al Ruthazer, board member of MVPASAP. “We are also trying to provide resources and information for those with substance abuse challenges and family members. Financial help is so appreciated.”

“Addressing addiction in our communities has been an overriding focus of mine during my time as State Representative,” said DiZoglio, who serves on the legislature’s Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. “I have had countless conversations with residents in my district and across the Merrimack Valley who have either struggled with substance abuse themselves or have friends or family who have battled addiction. I am so grateful to Phil Lahey for helping to launch this amazing group, as well as House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill) for his support and leadership in helping to fight for these funds.”