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Friedman named chair of committee addressing issues of mental health, substance use

Separately, joins colleagues in passing bill targeting campus sexual violence

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Sen. Cindy Friedman has been appointed chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. The Arlington Democrat previously chaired the Joint Committee on Public Service after she was sworn into the Senate in July following a special election to succeed the late Senator Ken Donnelly.

As chair, Friedman will play a significant leadership role as the committee considers legislative matters related to behavioral health, drug detoxification, Department of Mental Health oversight, mental illness and substance use.

In a Nov. 2 statement, Friedman said she would continue to fight for individuals who suffer from debilitating mental illness and substance-use disorder. “In the midst of a mental health and opioid crisis, we need to do everything we can on the state-level to ensure that individuals with behavioral health conditions are able to get access to timely treatment that they need to manage their illness or addiction,” she said.

Long wait for services

According to a recent study highlighted in The Boston Globe, it can often take several months for people with mental health issues to get treatment. The wait is particularly long for children, those who need a psychiatrist, adults covered by Medicaid, and those who do not speak English.

The committee was previously chaired by former Senator Jen Flanagan, Democrat of Leominster, before she resigned from the Senate to take a position on the state Cannabis Control Commission.

Before becoming state senator, Friedman spent nearly a decade working as chief of staff to Donnelly, helping to craft and advocate for comprehensive legislation to preserve and expand access to behavioral health treatment.

In an effort to continue Donnelly’s legacy, Senator Friedman has taken the lead on all of the bills that Senator Donnelly originally filed at the start of the current legislative session, including those related to mental health and substance use.

In addition to her role as Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health Substance Use and Recovery, Friedman will also serve in a leadership capacity as vice chair of the Joint Committee on Public Service and will continue to serve as a member of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development.

All bills currently before the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery can be found here >>


Seeks fair procedures on campus


In a separate news release, her office reported that Friedman joined Senate colleagues Nov. 2 in passing legislation aiming to curb college-campus sexual violence.

The bill, filed by Sen. Michael O. Moore, Democrat of Millbury, who serves as chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education, reflects a collaborative approach by college officials, advocacy groups, students and policymakers to address the issue of on-campus sexual assaults.  

With the U.S. Department of Education’s recent revocation of the Obama administration’s 2011 guidance on college sexual assault, the legislation aims to make sure that fair procedures and appropriate services are in place at higher education institutions across Massachusetts for both the reporting party and the accused.

In a statement, Friedman said: "Sexual assault on college campuses can no longer be an issue that we brush aside. Too often, students fear reporting incidents of sexual assault and do not have access to adequate resources or training guides to assist them. This bill takes an important step in providing necessary safeguards to suppress the threat of sexual violence on our college campuses."

According to the 2015 climate survey conducted by the Association of American Universities, 23 percent of female undergraduate student respondents reported experiencing non-consensual sexual contact by physical force, threats of physical force or incapacitation.

Despite these statistics, 95 percent to 72 percent of these incidents of sexual violence went unreported, the Nov. 2 news release said. This legislation aims to encourage more students to come forward by ensuring that fair procedures and appropriate services are in place not only for the reporting party but also the accused. 

The legislation, which passed the Senate unanimously, has been referred to the House of Representatives for consideration. To continue tracking the bill, S.2191, please visit the Legislature’s website,

This news announcement was published Monday, Nov. 6, 2017.

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