Monthly Archives: September 2012

14 posts

El Sistema Student Orchestra Debuts in Somerville

The children of El Sistema perform at the East Somerville Community School
The children of El Sistema perform for the first time at the East Somerville Community School. Look at that adorable little smile!

The word “inspiring” is overused, but it’s the only one I can think of that captures what I saw at the East Somerville Community School last night. I was fortunate to attend the Somerville debut of El Sistema, a daily after-school program that enriches the lives of at-risk kids through music education. The young musicians meet for three hours each school day to learn the basics of musical performance and theory, and they do so thanks to the generosity of neighbors and community groups who have donated instruments.

Funding for arts education has suffered around the country over the last decade, which makes partnerships with groups such as El Sistema all the more vital. And for anyone who’s ever suffered through traditional music lessons, I need to stress just how different El Sistema’s approach is. “El Sistema is a completely different way of learning an instrument,” district music director Rick Saunders told the Somerville Journal, “because children play together in an orchestra every day for at least two hours, compared to the typical 40-minute instrument lesson per week. With so much time to play, the children progress rapidly.”

The benefits of music education are incredible, and the younger students start, the more music helps. Kids learn discipline by practicing every day, they understand how to work together as a team by performing together, and perhaps most importantly, they develop stronger spacial and reasoning skills without even knowing it. El Sistema also makes sure that its students eat a nutritious after-school snack.

El Sistema is exactly the kind of educational partner we need in our schools. I want to say thank you to El Sistema, to the East Somerville Community School, and to the talented young musicians who performed last night. It was an absolute pleasure, and I’m excited to see the program’s Somerville debut get off to such an amazing start.

Tim Celebrates Signing of Child Hearing Aid Law with Governor Patrick, Rep. Garballey, and Other Elected Officials

This afternoon, a group of concerned parents gathered with Representatives and Senators for Governor Patrick’s ceremonial signing of H.52, “An Act to Provide Access to Hearing Aids for Children.” I cannot tell you how many times I heard people at the ceremony saying, “This is such a good bill,” and that’s a testament to the hard work of my colleague Representative Sean Garballey, who was the chief sponsor of H.52.

Governor Patrick listens to parents describe the hardship of learning that their child was diagnosed with permanent hearing loss, and of the relief and hope that Rep. Garballey’s bill has brought to them and their children.

And it really is a good bill: H.52 plugs a critical gap in early-childhood health care by expanding on a 1998 law that mandates post-natal hearing screenings. While newborns have been screened for hearing loss for more than a decade, insurers were not required to cover the vital medical devices that would restore the gift of sound to these young lives.

I listened today as one mother after another talked about the sorrow they felt when they learned their children faced hearing loss, and the fear they felt when they learned that hearing aids were not covered by their health insurance. One mother, holding the hands of her 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds, told us how her family faced a $15,000 decision every year, a decision that forced her and her husband to answer questions no parent ever wants to face. With the passage of this bill, that economic uncertainty—that sick, empty feeling in the pit of a parent’s stomach when an unexpected medical bill arrives—is a thing of the past for thousands of Massachusetts families.

As Governor Patrick pointed out, this hearing aid bill is part of a larger decision we all made as a Commonwealth, namely that “health care is a public good,” and one to which we all deserve access. With the passage of this bill, Massachusetts becomes the 20th state nationally to require insurers to cover the cost of hearing aids, and I’m proud to have co-sponsored this piece of legislation

Cambridge Health Alliance Modernizes for the Future

I spent part of this morning with the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), as they marked their transition to a medical home model of health care delivery.The medical home model is part-and-parcel of the health care bill we passed last session, emphasizing the need to identify and learn from accountable care organizations and mandating a transition to global payments away from the traditional fee-for-service model.

Tim speaks about his personal connection to the Cambridge Health Alliance and the importance of the progress that they continue to make as one of the Commonwealth’s safety net hospitals

The CHA is partnering with state and federal authorities as part of a $628 million program designed to increase the effectiveness of care delivery and to reduce operating costs. The program, known as the Delivery Services Transformation Initiative (DSTI), seeks improvement in four major areas: integrated delivery systems, innovative care methods, alternative payment models, and population-level healthcare services.

In plain English, this means that the CHA is moving forward with best-practices such as electronic health records to arm both providers and patients with up-to-the-minute information. In practice, electronic health records function the same way as a patient’s “chart,” only without the possibility of mistakes due to transcription errors or loss of paper records. Electronic health records also make it possible to instantaneously check patient prescriptions against known allergies, integrate lab results with x-rays and MRIs, and let patients bring their chart with them on a smart phone or any other connected device.

The DSTI program is another important step forward on the road toward affordable, high-quality health care for all. As the Governor has pointed out in the past, DSTI funds benefit our “safety net hospitals,” the caregivers who serve our most vulnerable communities, and it’s good to see that the proverbial cavalry has arrived to support our doctors and nurses. I will continue to fight for a single-payer health care system, but the transition of the CHA to a medical home model with the help of the DSTI program is an unequivocal win for our district and for our neighbors. I played an integral role in the creation of the CHA, and I’m proud that they’re continuing to find new ways to improve patient care.