FROM YOUR STATE SENATOR
By John Velis
I hope you are all doing well as we prepare for our Thanksgiving celebrations! It is a busy time in the Senate, and I am looking forward to spending some quality time with family and friends over the holidays.
This week, the Baker-Polito administration announced that effective immediately, all Massachusetts residents aged 18 and over are eligible to get a COVID-19 booster six months after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two months since receiving a Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine. Visit mass.gov/covid-19-vaccine for a list of locations and more information.
I began my week at Holyoke City Hall for the official swearing-in ceremony of Mayor Garcia! I am looking forward to working closely alongside the new mayor to advocate for Holyoke, and it was a fantastic event. Afterwards, Team Velis held office hours at the Holyoke Council on Aging. It’s so important to me to hear directly from constituents, and I encourage anyone to stop by our office hours or make an appointment by calling 617-722-1415. My next office hours will be this Monday, Nov. 22, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the Westfield Senior Center.
This Wednesday, the Senate passed the Mental Health ABC Act 2.0, a comprehensive piece of legislation that continues the process of reforming the way mental health is delivered in our commonwealth. So many individuals across our state struggle with mental health challenges, and those issues have only been exacerbated by the isolation and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. From guaranteeing annual mental health wellness exams, to addressing the emergency department boarding crisis, to reforming mental health insurance coverage and expanding access to care, this legislation is going to do a world of good. I was proud to work on this bill as vice chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance and Recovery, and was thrilled to join my Senate colleagues in voting to pass it this week.
Wednesday evening, I joined the Western Massachusetts Counselors Association at Western New England University to honor counselors across our region. The work our school counselors do has always been critical, but is even more important now, as our students navigate their return back to in-person. It was a great event, and I was lucky enough to bump into some Westfield counselors, as well!
Friday, I was in Boston to chair a public hearing for the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. The focus of the hearing was on H.4195/S.2582, An Act Relative to the Governance, Structure, and Care of Veterans at the Commonwealth’s Veterans’ Homes. We heard powerful testimony from elected officials, Board of Trustees members, veteran organizations advocates, and the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Coalition. The goal of our committee is to advance legislation that not only addresses the flaws that were exposed at our commonwealth’s veterans’ homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that also addresses the longstanding issues that we know existed even before that. We must get this right, and I look forward to continuing to work with committee members on this legislation.
While I was in Boston on Friday, Caitlyn from my office joined Sen. Gomez and staff from Sen. Lesser and Rep. Ramos to present $60,000 in funding to the city of Chicopee for their City Center Cleanup project. I was proud that our Chicopee delegation could secure this funding in the fiscal 2022 budget process to help make Chicopee Center a safer, cleaner place!
This Sunday, 911 Burgers and Dogs in Agawam will be open for one last time. Growing up, my mom always knew that a trip to 911 would do the trick to bring my spirits up after a difficult day. For over 40 years, they have been a cornerstone of the community, and I was glad I could stop by Thursday for a quick lunch and to present a Senate citation to the Mercadante family. They will be missed!
As always, if there is anything I can do to assist you, please never hesitate to reach out to my office. I can be reached at [email protected] or 413-572-3920, and you can find me online at senatorjohnvelis.com, where you can also sign up for my newsletter.
John Velis, D-Westfield, represents Westfield, Southwick, Montgomery, Russell and all or part of seven other cities and towns in the state Senate.