I hope everyone is doing well. I know we had some intense storms this week, and I want to send my thanks to all the municipal public safety and public works departments who were on call this week for storm damage and power outages. Southampton in particular had over 400 residents without power, and my office was able to facilitate communication between Eversource Energy and the Southampton Fire Department, who were then able to work together to restore power.
This week I hosted a meeting with legislative colleagues, community activists, and UMass Amherst researchers on the existence and dangers of PFAS in our food sources. Among other things, we discussed the possibility of a pilot study at UMass that would look at eggs from communities with high PFAS levels like Westfield and Hyannis. This pilot study could lead to expanded studies that would help us determine what products have PFAS in them, where they come from, and how we can best address PFAS in our food sources. Our communities deserve to know what we are consuming, and there was great legislative interest in the study.
I also want to acknowledge that this past week was Mental Illness Awareness Week. Those dealing with mental and behavioral health issues often do not get the help and support they need because there is a stigma surrounding talking about mental health. These issues are only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have seen rates of depression increase during these past several months. As a member of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery, I am proud that the State has launched their new “More to the Story Campaign,” which is focused on reducing the stigma around mental and behavioral health issues, and normalizing conversations. People often mask what they are going through, but there is always more to the story, and we can all do more to help those who are struggling. To find out more about the campaign and resources, please contact my office.
This past Monday morning I had a meeting at the Holyoke Health Center with E.D Jay Breines, Representative Vega, and Pat Duffy on the impact of the health center on the greater Holyoke area and how we in the legislature can support them. Later on Monday I joined Mayor Sapelli in Agawam for a tour of Belt Technologies. It’s always eye-opening to see how businesses have adapted to meet the challenges of COVID-19, and we need to continue to provide support as we go through these recovery stages.
On Tuesday morning, I went over to the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Food Pantry to spend some time helping out. Food insecurity is still one of our largest challenges for our most vulnerable populations, and it is great to see how these organizations and volunteers go above and beyond to provide groceries and resources.
On Friday I had a virtual meeting with Secretary Sudders from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and many legislative colleagues on the proposed closing of Farren Health in Turner Falls and the proposed patient transfer to Mount Saint Vincent in Holyoke. My colleagues and I have deep concerns about such a change taking place during this pandemic, and I advocated for delaying the move and for increased guidelines and resources to be provided for residents, staff, and families.
After this meeting, I went over to Holyoke to present Esme Power with an official Senate Citation. Esme was recently named as a delegate to the national Girl Scouts. I am so proud of the great youth in our communities, and congratulations to Esme.
I wrapped up Friday night by spending several hours on a ride-along with the Westfield Police Department. I believe in rolling up my sleeves and seeing things first hand, and these ride-alongs are an important opportunity to see the daily work of our law enforcement officers. I am grateful to WPD for letting me come along.
This week I also had a variety of meetings with economic experts and the Ways and Means Committee to talk about the State Economy. The fact remains that it is still hard to predict exactly what our economic recovery is going to look like without a federal package. This budget is going to require strategic planning and we are looking at all options. We need to be fiscally responsible for the long-term and not dig ourselves into a hole, and at the same time we need to provide funding and clarity for those struggling in our communities. I will continue to update you all as the budget moves along.
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.
John C. Velis