3 Bills Await Gov's Signature, and more...

3 Bills –Kid’s Health, Tobacco, Safe Driving – Await Gov’s Signature

Three bills that MHA and its membership have endorsed throughout their journey in the State House were passed by the legislature last week and now await Governor Charlie Baker’s signature.
Kids’ Health Bill Contains Important Provider Directory Language 
An Act Relative to Children’s Health and Wellness (H4210) emerged from conference committee last week, was passed, and sent to the governor. It extends MassHealth coverage until age 26 for young adults formerly in Department of Children and Families custody, creates pilot behavioral health centers of excellence around the state, and creates a commission to investigate the pediatric healthcare workforce, among many other elements. 
It also contains language for an MHA legislative priority to ensure patients are presented with accurate provider directories. Families and individuals seeking care in Massachusetts often face difficulty finding providers through their health plan’s provider directory. The language, which was supported by providers, insurers, and mental health advocates, strikes a balance that ensures improvements to provider directory accuracy by holding all parties accountable for short-term, consumer-friendly changes, while allowing insurers, providers, advocates, and policymakers to continue to work together to develop long-term solutions.
Ban on Flavored Tobacco Considered a National First
MHA is a member of the Tobacco Free Mass. coalition that strongly supported legislation that passed last week banning flavored tobacco products, including mint, wintergreen, and menthol flavors. (Menthol has escaped previous bans even though public health interests have noted that it is a numbing agent, allowing smokers to inhale more deeply and become more easily addicted.) 
The Massachusetts legislation, which gained national attention for its bold and sweeping ban, also imposes an excise tax on vaping products at 75% of the wholesale price. The bill requires insurers to cover tobacco cessation products and imposes tough fines for stores selling to minors and for selling any vaping product without a license. Flavored vaping products would be banned immediately; the menthol cigarette ban would go into effect June 1, 2020.
Hands-Free Driving Bill Seeks to Reduce Rising Fatalities
The House on Tuesday and the Senate on Wednesday approved a ban on drivers using hand-held cellphones. The votes were near unanimous with just one representative and senator voting no. The legislation imposes fines of $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second, and $500 for subsequent violations of the law.
MHA testified in support of the ban, calling distracted driving “a public health epidemic.” Motor vehicle deaths in Massachusetts increased 13% from 2015 to 2016 and experts generally agree that distracted driving is the primary cause. Additionally, auto insurance premiums have jumped 16% since 2011 and major insurers cite distracted driving as a key factor behind those increases.

How Would You Improve the Behavioral Health System?

The state wants to improve the ambulatory behavioral health system and is asking the healthcare sector and the public for ideas on how to make it happen. The request for information follows a series of eight listening sessions the Executive Office of Health and Human Services held around the state this summer. EOHHS found that while Massachusetts has the highest number of providers per capita in the U.S., Massachusetts behavioral health organizations have great trouble recruiting and retaining personnel. Insurance reimbursement is low for behavioral healthcare, patients have trouble accessing care, and those needing care still face the stigma of dealing with mental health and substance use issues. The state is seeking solutions to those problems and others from either behavioral health practitioners, medical professionals who are not in a behavioral health treatment setting, or from the general public, trade organizations, and insurers. To participate, click on this link and choose the respondent group that best suits you. The deadline for submissions is Friday, December 20 at 5 p.m. MHA is planning on submitting a completed RFI.

A New Comprehensive OUD Resource for Hospitals

Boston Medical Center’s Grayken Center for Addiction and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement have released a document outlining best practices that hospitals can use to address opioid use disorder (OUD).
Entitled Effective Strategies for Hospitals Responding to the Opioid Crisis, the document provides strategies and case examples from hospitals based on the following five areas:
• identify and treat individuals with OUD at key clinical touchpoints;
• modify opioid prescribing practices to minimize harm and maximize benefit;
• train stakeholders on the risks of OUD and how to reduce stigma;
• identify and screen individuals at high risk of developing OUD; and 
• reduce the harms of substance use disorder
The strategies do not provide clinical guidance, but improvements that hospitals can implement immediately. Among the many state, federal, health system, and organizational documents included in the comprehensive guidance document are some that MHA helped create with its membership and partners, including Massachusetts Emergency Department Opioid Management Policy: Patient Information Sheet and Guidelines for Prescription Opioid Management within Hospitals. Those documents and other MHA substance use disorder prevention and treatment guidance are available on PatientCareLink here.

U.S. Ways & Means Seeks Views on Care to Underserved Areas

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee has announced a request for information on ways to improve healthcare for underserved communities. Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) said responses would inform the work of the bipartisan Rural and Underserved Communities Health Task Force that is examining the delivery and financing of health services in both urban and rural underserved areas. The deadline for responses to this RFI is close of business Friday, November 29, 2019.

McLean Hospital’s Maurasse Wins Schwartz Center Award

Congratulations to Sophia L. Maurasse, M.D., the medical director of McLean Hospital’s 3East Girls Intensive and Step-Down Programs, who last Thursday received the Schwartz Center’s National Compassionate Caregiver of the Year Award. Governor Charlie Baker presented the award to Maurasse at the Schwartz Center’s 24th annual dinner.
Maurasse oversees programs that provide intensive treatment for girls ages 13 through 21, who are facing trauma, self-injury, and other challenging psychiatric conditions. 
The Schwartz Center cited her extraordinary clinical care and the “quiet, empathic way she engages with patients, instilling trust and making it possible to reach some of the most difficult-to-reach patients. Her calm and compassionate demeanor provides a safe place for her patients to feel supported and understood, fostering hope for them and their families.”
Maurasse was chosen from among five other nominees from around the United States.

CDC Updates its Guidance on Antibiotic Stewardship Programs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released the latest iteration of Core Elements of Hospital Antibiotic Stewardship Programs – the guidance document that helps hospitals implement such programs.
While antibiotics have advanced medical treatment dramatically, optimizing their use is necessary to combat antibiotic resistance and to protect patients from unnecessary use. In 2014, CDC called on all hospitals in the United States to implement antibiotic stewardship programs and released the first version of the Core Elements document.
The latest version stresses hospital leadership commitment to the antibiotic program; calls for the appointment of a leader or co-leader to be accountable for the program; suggests that a pharmacist within the hospital be part of the program’s leadership; and outlines steps to implement, track, and report the program, as well as providing continuing education for caregivers on antibiotic use and misuse.

Clean Energy Transportation Grants Available

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is offering an “Accelerating Clean Transportation Now (ACTNow)” funding opportunity designed to promote clean transportation solutions. The request for proposals is offering $1.4 million in matching grants ranging from $50,000 to $200,000. The center is seeking to pilot innovative, broadly replicable clean transportation models across different vehicle types, populations, and regions of the state. Successful applicants would propose projects that attract substantial third-party investment, can produce significant transportation-related carbon emission reductions at scale, help to grow the state’s clean transportation sector, and demonstrate a feasible and equitable path to benefiting from any potential cap-and-invest program. The large healthcare sector of the economy has a role to play in clean transportation options. An informational webinar on the program will be held on December 17, 2019, and applications to the program will be due on March 3, 2020. For more information, please see the RFP webpage here.


Deborah Bitsoli has been named president of Mercy Medical Center and its affiliates, effective Dec. 2. Most recently, she served as president of Morton Hospital in Taunton. Prior to Morton, she was COO and EVP at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester. Bitsoli holds an MBA from Babson College, and a BS from Bentley University. She replaces Mark Fulco, who left in September after two years as president.

Happy Thanksgiving

MHA wishes you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. Monday Report will be back after a one-week hiatus.

53rd Annual Mid-Winter Leadership Forum

Friday, February 7, 2020; 8:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Boston Marriott Newton

This is the winter event, so don’t miss it! Details on the full agenda will follow shortly but please note that the keynote speaker for this well-attended event is Stephen K. Klasko, M.D., president and CEO of Jefferson Health in Philadelphia. He’s a transformative leader and advocate for healthcare and higher education. His 2018 book, Bless This Mess: A Picture Story of Healthcare in America, follows on the heels of his highly successful 2016 book, We Can Fix Healthcare: The Future is Now. As president and CEO of Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health since 2013, he has steered one of the nation’s fastest growing academic health institutions based on his vision of re-imagining healthcare and higher education. Join your colleagues from around the state for MHA’s signature winter event. Learn more and register by visiting here.

John LoDico, Editor