Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito were sworn into their second terms last Thursday. And the day before, the Massachusetts legislature began a new two-year session (the 191st), with the House once again electing Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) as speaker and the Senate voting in Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) as president. DeLeo is serving his sixth term as speaker and Spilka is serving her first full term after taking over the presidency for five months last term.
In her inaugural speech, Spilka alluded to controlling spiraling pharmaceutical prices and reining in healthcare costs. However, in a December 31 opinion piece in the Boston Herald, Spilka said one of her “personal priorities” is a “commitment to achieving true mental health parity, and finding creative ways to integrate preventative mental health care into our healthcare system, so that treatment is as routine as that which we expect for heart disease or diabetes. We must also commit ourselves to ending the stigma surrounding mental illness. When mental health touches so many of our lives—from those struggling with addiction, chronic homelessness or recurring incarceration, to veterans fighting PTSD and families trying to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect—advocating for routine, preventative mental health care is a challenge that we must take on.”
Governor Baker devoted much of his speech to education and transportation issues, but regarding healthcare, he said he would file legislation to expand telemedicine, “rethink scope of practice,” and address parity issues affecting mental health.