Dana-Farber Nurses Set One-Day Methuen Strike; Mediator Could Ask for More Negotiations

Registered nurses of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute—Merrimack Valley issued notice Friday night that they plan to hold a one-day strike a week from Wednesday unless their employer agrees to a contract that provides secured benefits and competitive pay. The nurses, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said they are prepared to strike for 24 hours and picket in front of Dana-Farber in Methuen during regular clinic hours. They said they took the step “after repeatedly trying to get Dana-Farber executives to reach reasonable compromises on key issues, including a competitive wage step scale and a commitment to maintaining benefits throughout the life of their contract.”

“We are prepared to strike if necessary to protect cancer care quality and access for Merrimack Valley patients,” said Kerrin Albert, Infusion registered nurse. “We would prefer that Dana-Farber executives simply meet the needs of our nurses so we can maintain a stable workforce, but instead they have put us in this position to fully exercise our rights as union members.”

Nurses were required by labor law to give Dan-Farber at least 10 days’ notice before the strike. There is another negotiation session scheduled tomorrow, and it is expected a federal mediator will call the nurses back for an additional negotiation session or sessions prior to the strike date.

State House Rally Wednesday on Bill by Sen. Payano, Others to Expand MassHealth, More

A bill filed by Sen. Pavel M. Payano and others is the focus of a State House rally Wednesday morning. The legislation, also filed by Sens. Liz Miranda and Reps. Bud L. Williams and Judith A. Garcia, is before the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. It would create the Executive Office of Equity, expand MassHealth coverage for eligible people regardless of immigration status, reduce costs of certain medications, ensure equal reimbursement for telehealth services and more.

Nearly $1 Million State Grant Targets Childhood Mental and Behavioral Health

Reducing the suspension and expulsion rate of children in early education and care programs in Haverhill, Methuen and other area communities are among the aims of a nearly $1 million state grant to address behavioral health. The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was formally awarded a Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Grant of $953,221 Wednesday. The nonprofit was one of six sharing in $4.1 million statewide to train providers and improve programs that promote the developmental, social-emotional and behavioral well-being of infants and young children in their care. “We have a mental health crisis that has only been made worse by the pandemic, particularly for our youngest kids,” said Gov. Maura Healey. “Our administration is continuing to help break down the stigma behind seeking treatment while ensuring that Massachusetts residents know how they can access the health care and support they deserve—no matter how small.

Greater Lawrence Family Health Center to Expand Centering Pregnancy Program With Grant

Greater Lawrence Family Health Center’s Centering Pregnancy Program—providing culturally sensitive prenatal care, perinatal behavioral health support and breastfeeding support—was one of 11 institutions around the state Tuesday to receive a state Maternal Health Equity Grant. Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell named the Health Center, with locations in Lawrence, Haverhill and Methuen, as one of the grant recipients at Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury, where she hosted a roundtable discussion about maternal health equity. “We each have a role to play in addressing the maternal health crisis in Massachusetts where, for example, Black birthing people experience the highest rates of labor and delivery complications compared to other races and ethnicities,” said Campbell. “Our Maternal Health Equity Grants will provide much-needed funds to nonprofit organizations across the state that have demonstrated their ability to tackle this ongoing crisis. Together, we are making clear that the safety and wellbeing of all those who give birth and parent matters and contributes to the health and success of all of us.”

Greater Lawrence Family Health Center plans to use the $135,611 grant to expand its group medical visit program for maternal health patients.

Latest Tests of Mosquito Pools in Haverhill Show No Evidence of West Nile Virus

Although a mosquito in a Haverhill test pool recently tested positive for the West Nile Virus, state officials report subsequent tests at a variety of sites, off Primrose Street, show no presence of the disease. Kimberly A. Foss, an entomologist at Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control and Wetlands Management District, told city officials Thursday crews completed extra larviciding activities during the week. “The supplemental trap went out on Monday night at St. James Cemetery and those extra mammal biting mosquitoes went for testing and were negative for (West Nile Virus). The trap at 500 Primrose was also negative,” she said in an email.

Grant Furthers Greater Lawrence Tech Partnership with Greater Lawrence Family Health Center

Greater Lawrence Technical School was awarded $369,000 Monday to provide training and placement services for 48 unemployed and underemployed participants in medical assistant positions s part of a partnership with Greater Lawrence Family Health Center and Beth Israel Lahey Health. Gov. Maura Healey, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Lauren Jones and other officials were on hand for the presentation of $3.5 million in new Sen. Kenneth J. Donnelly Workforce Success Grants for seven initiatives across the state. The grants, funded through the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund and distributed by the Commonwealth Corporation, aim to increase access to well-paying jobs for residents facing employment barriers and improve the competitive stature of Massachusetts businesses by enhancing worker skills and productivity. “These grants will connect Massachusetts residents who typically face higher barriers to obtaining employment with the vital training and skills they need to create a meaningful career pathway, while also helping to ensure that employers have access to the skilled talent they need,” said Healey. “Making the match between skills training and labor demand is critical for supporting our workers, employers, economy and competitiveness.”

Driscoll added, “These organizations are supporting our workforce by attracting those who are unemployed, underemployed or experiencing barriers to employment and providing the necessary skills they need to succeed.”

Others receiving grants are Health and Home Care Training of New England, $350,000; Catholic Charitable Bureau of the Archdiocese of Boston, $1 million; Holyoke Health Center, $850,600; Massachusetts Restaurant Association Education Foundation, $250,000; Massachusetts Restaurant Association, $160,000; and BEST Hospitality Training, $500,000.

New State Report Flags Haverhill for Dramatic Drop in Overdose Deaths, While Lawrence Rate Increases

New figures released Thursday by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health show opioid-related overdose deaths in Haverhill dropped from 33 in 2021 to 21 a year later, while Methuen increased from 12 to 13 and Lawrence rose from 48 to 58 during the same period. Officials highlighted Haverhill for its drop in deaths and Lawrence for its increase as overall figures show a statewide death rate increase of 2.5%. Rates among Black, non-Hispanic residents, made up the largest increase, according to preliminary data. North Andover dropped from six to five deaths. There were 2,357 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths in 2022, surpassing the previous peak in 2021 by an estimated 57 deaths.

Two Anna Jaques Hospital Staffers From Haverhill Among Seven to Receive Scholarships

Two Haverhill employees of Anna Jaques Hospital were among seven recently awarded $1,000 scholarships to further their education in nursing during the hospital’s annual Lois Anderson, RN, Scholarship Event. Jordan Perez and Anastasia Papouli were awarded scholarships each from the Robert Coffyn Clark Scholarship Fund. Perez is a registered nurse on the cardiac unit who is enrolled in a Bachelor of Nursing to Master of Nursing program at Endicott College in Beverly. Papouli is a medical assistant at Women’s Health Care who is enrolled in a Bachelor of Science to master’s degree program in sexual and reproductive medicine at the University of South Wales. “It is rewarding to see so many on our staff from many departments work to further their education, and these scholarships are a wonderful way to help them reach their goals,” said Jeffrey L. Brickman, interim president of Anna Jaques Hospital.