State's Marijuana Law Needs Improvement and more...

MHA: State's Marijuana Law Needs Improvement

The commercial sale of marijuana has been legalized in Massachusetts – but that doesn’t mean that the law as passed by ballot question last November is without fault and can’t be improved.

On Monday the Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy, co-chaired by Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) and Rep. Mark Cusack (D-Braintree), held another in its series of hearings as it considers nearly 90 bills to address various issues surrounding the voter-approved marijuana law.

MHA President & CEO Lynn Nicholas, FACHE testified at the State House hearing, saying that while MHA respected the will of the voters “the legislature must act to improve the law because of the inadequacies of the ballot language.”

Specifically, Nicholas called on the state to undertake rigorous and ongoing data collection on the public health, public safety, and fiscal effects of legalized marijuana sales, and she urged delaying the sale of marijuana edibles until further studies have been conducted on high-potency tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the products. “Marijuana-infused edibles are the fastest growing segment of the marijuana marketplace and the introduction of such products to Massachusetts poses particularly challenging public health and safety issues,” Nicholas said.

Perhaps most importantly in light of the changing culture regarding marijuana and its  proven detrimental effects on brain development in adolescents, Nicholas encouraged support for proposed bills that discourage marketing to children and that dedicate a portion of the taxes collected through marijuana sales to establish a trust fund for adolescent substance use prevention and early intervention.

In testimony (see below) submitted to the committee, MHA threw its strong support behind a number of marijuana-related proposals, including ones to ensure that law enforcement has statutory tools for determining driver impairment due to marijuana; increasing the tax levies included in the law and earmarking them for substance use disorder treatment; expanding the size of the board overseeing marijuana regulation; and allowing towns greater authority to determine where retail marijuana shops are located.

The Committee’s final hearing will be held this Monday at 4 p.m. at Shrewsbury High School. It is the intention of the legislature to place an omnibus bill for final approval by Governor Baker in June.

MHA Supports Markey Bill to Fund Gun Violence Studies

MHA has endorsed legislation that Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey (D) introduced this week that would devote $10 million per year for the next five years to allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct or support research on firearms safety or gun violence prevention.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) joined Markey in introducing the legislation, which was co-sponsored by a number of senators, including Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

In a media release, Markey noted that: “A 1996 Republican appropriations rider prohibits federal funds from being used to advocate or promote gun control, which some have misconstrued as a ban on funding scientific research into the causes of gun violence. The author of the original rider, former Representative Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) now supports funding Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gun violence research and has stated that the rider should not stand in the way of researching the epidemic of gun violence.”

Joining MHA in endorsing the legislation were a number of local and national groups, including: Newtown Action Alliance, Massachusetts Medical Society, American Medical Association, Boston University School of Public Health, Rabbis Against Gun Violence, Women Against Gun Violence, and Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.

PatientCareLink: A Resource For Advance Care Planning

Taking the first steps to create an advance healthcare plan may seem daunting, but there are many resources close at hand to help you.

Advance healthcare planning – that is, ensuring that your wishes for how you want to be cared for in the event you become seriously ill are known and carried out – is currently the topic of a month-long national focus.

Last week, Monday Report detailed the two key elements of such an advance healthcare plan: choosing a health care proxy and outlining your wishes in a personal directive.  Throughout April MHA is encouraging its staff, its business neighbors in Burlington, and its membership to begin the discussions with friends, family and providers about advance care planning and to fill out the relevant documents.

Health care proxies and personal directives are the first steps anyone – no matter what your health status currently is – can take to ensure you receive the care you want when you become ill. You can visit the Healthcare Planning Throughout Your Life page under the “For Patients & Families” tab at Patient Care Link.  On this page, those who are seriously ill or are facing life-threatening diseases can also learn about other things worth considering:

•        Palliative care, which can often help patients with serious, life-threatening diseases live better and even longer;
•        End-of-life care, which is often defined by the medical community as care that occurs in the last months of a person’s life; and
•        Hospice care,  which provides an array of comfort and support services to patients and their loved ones when a serious illness is no longer responding to treatments focused on a cure

None of these topics are easy to talk about or consider but having a resource page where all the topics are laid out with links to organizations specializing in the specific areas may make the initial journey less difficult.

Equally important is Patient Care Link’s dedicated page to inform caregivers of the current thinking about serious illness care. Patient Care Link’s Serious Illness Care page contains some recent best practices and reports on the issue.

MHA Solutions Allied Health Scholarship

MHA Solutions, the full-service brokerage and consulting firm, is offering its annual $2,500 scholarship for those in the allied health practice field. The scholarship is available to current students, those currently working in allied healthcare roles or those with previous employment in these roles.  It will be awarded based on merit and financial need to a beginning or continuing student pursuing a degree in an allied health field in Massachusetts, including but not limited to:  radiologic technology, pharmacy, physical therapy, medical laboratory technician, or respiratory therapist. (Allied health professionals do not include nursing roles – LPN, NA, RN – or mid-level practitioners.)

The deadline for submitting applications is Friday, April 21. Only complete applications will be reviewed.  Applicants must sign a contract agreeing to practice in Massachusetts upon completion of their program for a minimum of two years. The scholarship winner will be announced at MHA’s 51st Annual Human Resources & Labor Forum on Friday, May 5, at MHA’s Conference Center in Burlington.

Further details and the application are below.

Task Force Complete Study On Infant Opioid Exposure

The state’s Interagency Task Force on Newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome – created through the FY2017 state budget – issued its final report this week that assesses existing services and programs in the commonwealth for mothers and newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome, identifies service gaps, and formulates a plan for collecting data, developing goals, and addressing gaps in service.

Numerous hospital and other provider groups participated in the task force’s survey or served on its advisory council.  While various providers have their own programs set up to assist the affected population, the report found that there is inconsistency in collecting data from the various groups, in sharing data between them, and in following set standards for care.  Among its many recommendations, the task force endorses universal prenatal and neonatal screening for opioids.

According to the study, the rate of reported prenatal opiate exposure in Massachusetts rose from 2.6 per 1,000 hospital births in 2004 to 14.7 in 2013 – an increase of more than 500%. However, based on hospitalization figures, researchers estimated a higher rate; that is, about 17.5 per 1,000 hospital births or more than 1,300 Massachusetts babies were born with heroin and other opioids in their system in 2013. Nationally, the figure is five babies out of every 1,000 births.

Opioid Treatment Scam

Just when you think the news about the opioid crisis in the state couldn’t get any worse, Attorney General Maura Healey issued an advisory this week cautioning against recruiters that are luring Massachusetts residents in need of treatment to out-of-state facilities that provide “little or no care to the patients.”

Healey said those battling substance use disorder are often offered airfare and payment for insurance coverage to travel to “treatment” centers in Arizona, California, and Florida. The AG said in some instances, in addition to poor or non-existent care, “the recruiters have stopped paying insurance premiums, which has resulted in patients getting removed from treatment facilities and stranded out of state without access to housing, health care, or the financial resources to return to Massachusetts.”

To safely access treatment services, people can contact the Massachusetts Substance Abuse Hotline at 1-800-327-5050.

THE Lahey-BIDMC Merger Plan Now Includes New England Baptist

On Thursday, New England Baptist Hospital announced it had signed a letter of intent to explore joining Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Lahey Health in creating a combined healthcare system. BIDMC and Lahey had announced at the end of January that they were exploring a merger. Adding New England Baptist is a logical fit as the hospital specializing in orthopedic care currently has a joint venture with BIDMC and is a member of the Beth Israel Deaconess Care Organization (BIDCO) network.  Various state and federal regulators must review and approve any sort of merger.

Webinars: Using Data to Improve Healthcare Quality

MHA, the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA), Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, and New England QIN QIO have partnered to offer a webinar series on leveraging data reports to drive quality improvement.

Upon completion of the series, participants will be able to: 1) leverage data to drive improvement and change within their facilities; 2) identify available data reports; 3) read and interpret the data; and 4) identify and implement quality improvement activities based on data reports.

The online events take place from 12 to 1 p.m. on Friday, April 28 and Thursday, May 4. The first session will focus on CHIA's all-payer hospital specific report and the second will focus on the NE QIN-QIO's Medicare, fee for service hospital specific report.  A session will highlight how Lowell General Hospital has used the QIO reports to drive its readmission improvement activities.  Click on the dates above to register.

Transition in Lowell

The board of directors of Circle Health (an integrated health delivery system in Greater Lowell) has unanimously approved Jody White, the current president of Lowell General Hospital and an MHA board member, to succeed Norm Deschene as CEO of both Lowell General Hospital and Circle Health, effective Monday, April 10. Deschene will now focus exclusively as CEO of Wellforce, the entity created in 2014 by Circle Health (including Lowell General Hospital) and Tufts Medical Center, as well as the physicians of New England Quality Care Alliance and the Lowell General Physician Hospital Organization. Hallmark Health, including Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, Lawrence Memorial Hospital and the Hallmark Physician Hospital Organization, recently joined Wellforce as an equal, founding member. White has been on the leadership team at Lowell General since 2003. Deschene, MHA’s board chairman in 2011-2012, has been part of Lowell General’s leadership team for more than 33 years.

Clinical Health Coach Fusion Training


The Iowa Chronic Care Consortium is offering clinical health coach fusion training through MHA. Clinical health coaching involves a very particular set of skills and attitudes enabling a wide range of healthcare professionals to partner with patients to achieve health outcomes that matter. There are two components to the training.

Fusion Training Begins Online (enrolling through April 14th). A personalized, convenient, 26-hour, self-paced online learning experience with live weekly teleconference practice sessions can be completed in as little as six weeks. It is recommended that participants complete the majority of the online modules prior to the two-day live intensive.

Two-Day Live Intensive (July 12 - 13, 2017) provides enrollees access to leading faculty and delivers additional curriculum. Participants will experience dynamic learning, clinical coaching demonstrations, live practice and networking opportunities.

The learning features: emphasis on clinical patient engagement and activation strategies through a health coaching approach; exploration of health coaching skills that can be learned and effectively used by all members of the healthcare team; clinical assessments, tools and resources to support best practice care and patient-centered goal setting; population health strategies to engage your entire panel of patients; and leadership skills to promote team-based care and implement clinical health coaching strategies.

John LoDico, Editor