Rep. Velis’ weekly update

Hello Westfield! Hope you all had a fantastic week- I sure did!

I started out my week by attending the 100th birthday party of Tony King, a veteran living in the Holyoke Soldier’s Home, and the last living member of the legendary 1934 American Legion Post 21 Baseball team. Tony was the team captain when the team travelled to North Carolina, where his African-American team member, Bunny Taliaferro, was turned away from the hotel and told he couldn’t play in the American Legion World Series. Tony famously told them that if Bunny couldn’t play, he wouldn’t play either. It was an honor to be invited to celebrate Tony. His bravery in standing up to segregation, as well as his service in the Navy, are truly inspirational, and it was a joy to be able to wish him a very happy birthday!

On Wednesday, we had formal session at the State House. I’m happy to say that we passed two very important bills this week. The first was a supplemental budget that will provide extra funds for school districts that are accommodating new students from Puerto Rico. Since Hurricane Maria, Massachusetts has seen more than 2000 students from the island enroll in our schools, many of them in Western Mass. The Governor has asked for an additional $15 million in Chapter 70 funding (local aid for schools) to help cover the costs associated with our growing population. The budget passed the House and is now headed to the Senate for approval.

The other bill we passed this week was the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s and Dementia Act. This one was extremely personal for me, as my grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s. The toll that this disease can take on our loved ones and our families is devastating.  There are more than 120,000 people in Massachusetts who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This bill will help to create a plan to manage the resources the State spends on Alzheimer’s care and ensure that they are used most effectively. It will also mandate that medical providers receive continuing medical education programs on Alzheimer’s and Dementia, as early detection can be extremely important in treating the disease. Additionally, hospitals will be required to develop a plan for the recognition and management of patients with dementia who come to their emergency rooms to ensure that they receive appropriate care. Finally, it would establish minimum training standards for elder protective services workers. Dementia patients are among the most vulnerable to neglect and abuse, so training social workers on how to best care for them is essential. The bill is now in the Senate and will hopefully be passed soon.

I ended the week with a very busy Friday. With budget season fast approaching, it’s that time of year again when Friday mornings are filled with legislative breakfasts. I always enjoy attending these events and catching up on the work our local organizations have been doing all year. This week, I had the pleasure of joining our local public libraries for breakfast in Chicopee, followed shortly after by an event at ROCA, Inc., a Springfield non-profit that works with high-risk youth to keep them in school and out of trouble. From there, I then attended a meeting with Congressman Neal to discuss local transportation priorities for cities and towns in his district. It was a very productive meeting, and a great example of how all the different levels of government can to work together to achieve common goals. Finally, I finished at the Sons of Erin Colleen Ball on Friday night. Every year, I am impressed with the young ladies who participate in the Colleen Contest. It was a great time, and I am looking forward to the St. Patty’s day parade!

That’s it for this week, folks. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office at [email protected] or (413) 572-3920. Have a wonderful weekend!

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