Velis: Support Afghan refugees, fight against opioids


Happy September, everyone,

It’s hard to believe that fall is just around the corner. Although I love summer, I’m excited for cooler nights, changing leaves, and most of all, the Big E. I know a lot of our students returned to school this week, as well, and I hope all those who did had a great first one back. It’s good to see our teachers and students back in person after a year of being stuck at home during the pandemic.

While this huge milestone is definitely worth celebrating, I do still urge all to remain vigilant against COVID-19. Massachusetts has one of the lowest hospitalizations rates and one of the highest vaccinations rates. These two facts are not unrelated, and if you have not already gotten vaccinated, I urge all of you to do so as soon as you can. I also urge those who have COVID-19 or similar symptoms to stay home and talk to your doctor. Please visit vaxfinder.mass.gov for vaccine locations and mass.gov/covid-19-testing for testing locations.

This week, Governor Baker announced the recipients of the Municipality Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) grants at an event right here in Easthampton alongside myself, Rep. Dan Carey, and Mayor Nicole LaChappelle. These grants fund infrastructure projects for towns in need of upgrades to protect against natural disasters and a changing climate. For their Cherry Street green infrastructure and slope reconstruction project, the city of Easthampton was awarded $2 million in grants. For their Klaus Anderson Road/Johnson Brook Replacement Culvert and Green Infrastructure, the town of Southwick was awarded over $700,000 in grant money. These funds will help build a resilient and climate-friendly infrastructure, and I congratulate both communities.

This past Tuesday was International Opioid Overdose Awareness Day. I attended a vigil sponsored by CORE on the Westfield Green to remember all those that we have lost to substance abuse. The Coalition for Outreach, Recovery, and Education works to ensure that those who are suffering from substance abuse issues are able to seek help and works to increase education resources on how to prevent substance abuse issues. The opioid epidemic has claimed too many lives and has touched countless more. As the vice-chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Recovery, I will work my knuckles to the bone to create good policy that will help lift our communities out of this tragedy. If anyone is need of more information on CORE of Greater Westfield and their programs, please contact Kathi Cotugno at 413-642-9322, or by email  at [email protected].

I had also had the pleasure of meeting with the Shapiro Foundation this week. For those of you who don’t know, this group works alongside refugees from all over the world to assist in the long and very difficult process of repatriation. In the past couple weeks, they have been almost overwhelmed with the influx of refugees from Afghanistan. These are people who worked directly alongside U.S. and ally forces and are trying to flee the brutal regime of the Taliban. When I was deployed in Afghanistan, I served alongside many Afghan men and women who have now been put into dire straits because of their association with Western forces. The Shapiro Foundation is doing the excellent work of assisting these refugees in everything from their departure from Afghanistan, to resettling in their new homes, to even setting up English lessons. I look forward to working alongside this group in the coming months and years.

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 my email, [email protected], or by phone, 413-572-3920, and you can find me online at senatorjohnvelis.com, where you can also sign up for my newsletter.

John Velis

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