(Editor's Note: The following information was submitted by the office of state senator Barbara L'Italien.)
State Sen. Barbara L’Italien has secured a wide variety of amendments to the Senate’s $38.1 billion budget proposal, including money for police departments, schools, hospitals and fire departments in her district as well as increased services for vulnerable and under-served populations statewide.
The Senate spending plan, passed in the wee hours Friday morning, includes Sen. L’Italien’s budget amendment providing $3 million for police staffing grants statewide. The senator said she expects about $2 million of that money to go to Lawrence to put more police officers on the street.
Sen. L’Italien (D-Andover) secured $6.3 million to allow about 9,000 more Massachusetts elders to qualify for home care services by raising the income eligibility cut-off from $27,000 per year to $35,000 per year for a single person.
Elder home care services range from providing home health care aides to dispense medicine and help with personal care to providing someone to do grocery shopping, household chores and help with money management. The services are designed to help elders stay in their homes rather than have to move to expensive nursing homes. Currently, about 45,000 elders qualify for home care assistance.
Sen. L’Italien won approval of several budget amendments she sponsored or co-sponsored that impact people statewide. These include $300,000 to fund the Massachusetts Autism Commission that she helped create in 2010, and language that protects Tewksbury State Hospital from downsizing and potential cuts next fiscal year.
The Autism Commission amendment finally gives the commission an operating budget as well as money to hire an executive director to help support the thousands of Massachusetts individuals with autism and their families.
Tewksbury State Hospital faced the possibility of losing patient beds as well as staff layoffs due to Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget proposal. The Senate amendment ensures the hospital receive money to serve the same number of patients next year.
Identical language protecting the hospital was passed by the House in April, which means it will be in the Legislature’s final budget when it hits the governor’s desk. The hospital can cut costs, if necessary, but not at the expense of losing beds, according to the amendment.
Tewksbury State Hospital serves patients with physical and intellectual disabilities, mental illness and substance abuse issue & houses the only psychiatric unit in the state that treats patients with both psychiatric and medical conditions. More than 80 percent of its patients have been denied admittance elsewhere. The hospital is also one of the largest employers in Tewksbury and the surrounding area.
The Senate also passed Sen. L’Italien’s amendment that increases funding for Respite Services and Family Support by $4.5 million. This program helps families design the care and support systems they need to help their children with disabilities be happy, healthy and engaged in the community.
Sen. L’Italien secured funding in the Senate budget for four nonprofits in Lawrence, school project in Andover and the Tewksbury Fire Department.
Casa Dominicana: $50,000 for citizenship, GED and English-as-a-second-language courses for low-income adults.
Groundwork Lawrence: $25,000 for its youth summer jobs program.
New England Veteran Liberty House: $50,000 to help veterans find jobs, housing, health care and counseling services.
Lawrence Family Development and Education Fund: $50,000 for English-as-a-second-language classes, citizenship education, citizen application assistance and computer training for low-income adults.
Andover High School media/technology center: $200,000 for design plans to upgrade the high school media/technology center and bring the high school library into the 21st Century.
Peter Aumais baseball facility improvements: $35,000 to renovate dugouts and electrical infrastructure, add a press box and make handicapped accessibility upgrades.
Tewksbury Fire Department: $90,000 to reimburse the town for costs associated with its Fire Department responding to Tewksbury State Hospital.
A committee of top senators and state representatives will now work out the differences between the Senate budget and the version passed by the House in April. Fiscal Year 2016 begins on July 1, 2015.
Sen. L’Italien represents the communities of Lawrence, Andover, Tewksbury and Dracut. She is a former four-term state representative from 2003 to 2011.
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