September 2019

Cooler weather is here, children are back at school, the legislature is back in session, and we expect public health priorities to begin heating up. So of course MPHA is hard at work, and we have a lot to share in this month's newsletter!

First, MPHA continues to lead the effort to reauthorize the state's Prevention & Wellness Trust Fund. Established by the Legislature in 2012, this fund is a national model for improving health outcomes and reducing healthcare costs, while also combating persistent health inequities. I am delighted to report that MPHA recently delivered a letter to the chairs of the Legislature's Health Care Financing Committee with over 160 signatures supporting the Fund's reauthorization! See below for more specifics on the wide range of state and community leaders who have signed on to this important effort.

Second, while MPHA focuses on state policy efforts to promote health equity, we cannot remain silent in the face of ongoing federal attacks against our immigrant neighbors. As a result, MPHA has joined nine other organizations in signing an Amicus Brief, filed by Lawyers for Civil Rights, as part of a pending lawsuit that challenges the federal government's expansion of the public charge rule. See below for more information on how the newly defined rule would harm immigrant families and undermine public health goals. We will keep you posted as this moves through the courts.

Earlier this month, MPHA was thrilled to co-host the Western Massachusetts Transportation Forum. This first-of-its-kind event brought together more that 100 people to discuss public investment in transportation equity in Western Massachusetts.

Looking ahead, we hope you can join us for the Right to Food Rally on September 24 at the State House in Boston, and at our Annual Conference & Expo in Worcester on November 13, featuring a keynote presentation by Ronnie Galvin, Vice President for Racial Equity and the Democratic Economy at the Democracy Collaborative. Ronnie will be speaking about the need for racial justice and community wealth building in our struggle for greater health equity. Early bird tickets end soon, so buy them now!

Finally, we want people to know that MPHA has just kicked off a new strategic planning process. In the coming months our strategic planning committee - which includes staff, board, and policy council members - will be thinking carefully about our most strategic opportunities, the challenges we face, and the strengths that MPHA has and will build to face them. We look forward to sharing this work with you as we move forward!

Thank you, as always, for your partnership and support,

Carlene Pavlos
Executive Director
Policy Notespolicynotes
More than 160 Leaders Speak Out for Prevention & Wellness Trust Fund 
This week, more than 160 organizations and civic leaders - including 20 mayors and town managers - urged the Legislature to reauthorize funding for the Prevention & Wellness Trust Fund as part of any health care bill debated this session. In a letter to the Chairs of the Legislature's Healthcare Financing Committee, supporters of the Fund noted that addressing rising rates of chronic disease and health inequities requires more than just good clinical care - it depends on investing in community-based prevention programs with a clear record of success, such as the Prevention & Wellness Trust Fund.
As part of its organizing efforts, MPHA reached out to letter signers from across the Commonwealth, including many of the state's most prominent public health and medical organizations; regional planning agencies; issue-based leaders from food, housing, and other sectors; social service providers; researchers and philanthropic organizations; and state and municipal officials. Legislative action on health care is anticipated this fall and provides an opportunity to advance the Prevention & Wellness Trust Fund. Stay tuned for action opportunities!
MPHA Joins Lawsuit Challenging New Public Charge Rule
MPHA has joined with nine other organizations to sign an Amicus Brief (also known as a Friend of the Court Brief) supporting a lawsuit filed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and more than a dozen other states. The lawsuit seeks to halt implementation of the new Public Charge Rule by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, pending judicial review.
Historically, the Public Charge Rule ensured that legal foreign residents applying for an extension of stay or a change of status were not "primarily dependent on the Government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at Government expense." The newly revised rule expands the definition of Public Charge to include the receipt of non-cash benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and housing vouchers/subsidies. The Amicus Brief provides information regarding the impact that the new Public Charge Rule will have on public health, by dramatically raising the barriers that legal noncitizens face when accessing healthcare. Specifically, the rule undermines the legally protected doctor-patient relationship and drastically inhibits the ability of healthcare providers to attend to the social determinants of health.


Stand Strong for the Right to Food on September 24
September is Hunger Action Month, and MPHA is joining forces with the Food Bank Coalition of Massachusetts and other organizations to host a public rally opposing attacks on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Join us on Tuesday, September 24 at 12:15 p.m. on the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse as we Stand Strong for the Right to Food. Together, we can oppose attacks on SNAP and support state policies that expand access to healthy food. For more information, click here.
Early Bird Discounts for MPHA Annual Conference
Join MPHA on November 13 at the DCU Center in Worcester for the preeminent public health event of the year, MPHA's Annual Conference & Expo. This year's keynote speaker, Ronnie Galvin of the Democracy Collaborative, has committed his life's work to community building, community organizing, and social change. His current work focuses on fostering racial equity, building community wealth, and creating a new economic system anchored in democratic ownership. We hope you will join for an inspiring and important presentation on the intersection of community wealth building, racial justice, and health equity! Get your tickets today -   early bird discounts end this month! To learn more and register, click here.
New Webinars Help Hospitals, Health Centers to Address Need for Affordable Housing 
Health and housing leaders across Massachusetts recognize that the lack of quality and affordable housing impacts health care outcomes and costs - but often feel unprepared to engage in meaningful advocacy on housing policy. The Alliance for Community Health Integration, led by MPHA, has teamed up with the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, and a coalition of Boston-area accountable care organizations (ACOs) to host a two-part webinar series on October 16 and 23. The free webinars will provide an opportunity for leaders within health care institutions to hear directly from housing policy experts on how to help ensure that all residents can access quality, affordable housing. Health sector leaders will also be encouraged to endorse a statement of principles about the need for policy action on housing. For more information, click here.

In Western Mass, Clear Need for Better Transportation
It was standing room only at the Northampton Center for the Arts on September 13, 2019, when more than 100 people from Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden Counties came together for the first ever Western Massachusetts Transportation Forum . MPHA served on the Forum's multi-sector planning team led by the Food Bank of Western Mass. All 28 state representatives and senators from Western Massachusetts signed on as co-hosts of the event. In his keynote address, State Senator Eric Lesser acknowledged the recent rash of disturbing transportation problems in Eastern Massachusetts and made it clear that that the Western part of the state is also long overdue for some significant investments.
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