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2015-2016 Legislative Agenda

Legislative sessions in Massachusetts are every two years. NASW-MA and members lobbied for these priority bills in the 2015-2016 legislative session. For questions about the legislative agenda, contact

To view a list of supported bills that NASW-MA follows closely but does not prioritize, click here. Priority bills on the Legislative Agenda are ones we throw all our collective weight behind; supported bills are ones our colleagues in different coalitions have asked us to support in letters or testimony.

With close to 8,000 bills filed each legislative session, it’s a challenge to choose priorities! If there’s a bill you’d like NASW-MA to support, please let us know. The Legislative Action Committee makes the hard decisions about bills before every new session. There are many bills that touch social workers’ lives or move us towards a more just and equitable Commonwealth!

Social Work Professional Practice

An Act Establishing an Education Loan Repayment Program for Social Workers in Areas of Need

SB 665, HB 1060

SUMMARY: This NASW-sponsored legislation encourages social workers to work in child protective services programs or underserved geographic areas by providing repayment of qualified education loans. This expands a program already operated by DPH that provides student loan relief for health care professionals in high-need areas.

LEAD CO-SPONSORS: Representative Smitty Pignatelli and Senator Jamie Eldridge

Antitrust Immunity for Private Practitioners

SB 649

SUMMARY: Aims to create independent clinician immunity from anti-trust laws, allowing social workers in private practice to negotiate with managed care organizations and insurance companies on such issues as reimbursement rates, determination of medical necessity, and other subjects related to the quality and accessibility of behavioral health services. The bill also establishes a Behavioral Health Insurance Contract Review Board.

LEAD SPONSOR: Senator Daniel Wolf

An Act to Enhance Consumer Protection and Transparency Under the Social Work Licensing Law

HB 157

SUMMARY: The proposed licensure bill removes the current exemption of state employees from social work licensure requirements. This exemption currently allows the use of the social work title without social work training (BSW or MSW). The LSWA designation would be eliminated, and LSW license would require a BSW. People already using the LSW or LSWA designations would be “grandfathered in” and not lose their current level of licensure.

LEAD SPONSOR: Representative Paul Brodeur

Human Rights and Social Justice

Repealing Mandatory Minimums for Non-violent Drug Offenses

SB 786, HB 1620

SUMMARY: Mandatory minimums for drug offenses are pre-determined prison sentences for drug crimes.  The length of the sentence is often based solely on the weight of the drugs, regardless of other facts of the case.  This legislative would allow judges to impose sentences that fit the crime for non-violent drug offenses, and make all drug offenders now in prison eligible for parole, work release, and earned “good time” credits.

LEAD CO-SPONSORS: Senator Cynthia Creem and Representative Benjamin Swan 

Nursing Home Bed Holds

SB 364, HB 996

SUMMARY: This legislation holds a nursing home bed for a MassHealth resident for up to 20 days if they are admitted to the hospital.  The 20 day bed hold was added as a budget item last year by Senator Montigny, but will be expiring on June 30th 2015.  Bed holds are needed so that nursing home residents are not forced to move into a new room, floor, or home when they are discharged from the hospital.

LEAD CO-SPONSORS: Senator Mark Montigny and Representative Kate Hogan

Solitary Confinement

SB 1255, HB 1475

SUMMARY: Massachusetts is one of two states (the other is Arkansas) where an inmate can be sentenced to solitary confinement for up to 10 years. This legislation calls for appropriate standards in the use of segregation.  These standards include the following: 1) Creation of an oversight committee to collect data on the use of segregation and make recommendations to limit its use 2) Divert vulnerable populations from segregation 3) End the practice of releasing prisoners directly from segregation into the community 4) Limit the length of stay in segregation through imposing a legally mandated time limit to segregation 5) Improve access to treatment for and curb the use of Non-Disciplinary Administrative Segregation.

LEAD CO-SPONSORS: Senator James Eldridge and Representative Elizabeth Malia

Economic Justice

Bail Reform and Pre-trial Diversion

SB 802, HB 1584

SUMMARY: Bail Reform is about creating a system based on Evidenced Based Practices that assesses risk and develops pre-trial services, rather than keeping low-risk offenders in jail prior to trial due solely to their inability to pay low amounts of bail.  This legislation seeks to reform bail practices and introduce pre-trial services, similar to reforms that have already been enacted in other states.  There is growing initiative across the political spectrum to reform bail, as it is a cost saving as well as social justice issue.

LEAD CO-SPONSORS: Senator Ken Donnelly and Representative Tom Sannicandro

Unimpeded Access to Services for All

Increased Access to Substance Abuse Treatment

SUMMARY: The Massachusetts Coalition for Addiction Services is planning to build on its successes last session to expand funding for addiction prevention, treatment and recovery support services, and increased access to these services for people with alcohol and other addictive disorders. Specific legislation could potentially raise the Commonwealth’s daily rate for addiction services.

Mental Health Parity

SUMMARY: It has been more than five years since the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act became law and 14 years since passage of the Massachusetts Mental Health Parity law. Yet, because these laws are not strongly enforced, it is still difficult for many consumers to obtain coverage for and therefore access to mental health or addiction treatment. The bill adds teeth to existing law by allowing consumers to bring private lawsuits (including class action) to enforce existing law. It does not create additional parity obligations for insurers.

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